At any given time there are as many as 400,000 patents in the U.S. Patent Office queue. Even with 3,400 examiners, the average patent takes 24 months to be issued. Between 2000-2001 applications grew by 12%, so it's not getting any easier. Typical applications are around 40 pages of documentation, and can run to more than 100,000 pages. It currently takes 35 days to get through the pre-examination process and into the dreaded backlog pile, where it will languish for an average of 15 months. 40% of applications are returned for amendment - often just to get a signature at the bottom. Hey, it's a government bureaucracy. Most applicants report that the examiners are very friendly to talk with and are very helpful, so it's not all bad, and you'll think well of them once that patent certificate is hanging on the wall!