US patent trolls
""filed in 1992, granted in 2001"
nine years! is that typical in the USA?"
Yup. Non patent trolls, you can get a fast track patent in a matter of weeks, and conventional months. But patent trolls use tricks to intentionally delay this process. Read on...
There's a few particular attributes of the US patent system that makes them take this long. Intended use was, back when people were working on whatever invention and were worried about someone filing days or weeks ahead of them. So, you can file a patent describing the basic device, and have some time to refile to add additional claims to the patent as you refine or add to your design. When you do this, though, it resets the time limit so you'd have a little more time to flesh out your design if you wanted.
The problem is, a patent troll can subvert this system, they will make frivilous "continuation applications" on the patent (legalese for a requests for more time). The classical "submarine patent", until 2000 one could keep getting their patent extended out, and it'd be valid 17 years from the date it's actually granted rather than the original filing date. This was put to a stop for patents filed after 2000, they're 20 years effective filing date. The new-style submarine patent, there is a tradeoff where the longer they submarine it, the less time they have left on the patent to collect on it. But, a patent troll can file a patent, add claims onto it for years, then when they pop this patent up and start swinging it around, defendants are expected to show prior art effective the original filing date, not the years later date the claims were actually added.