AbstractPredicting the approval chance of a patent application is a challenging problem involving multiple facets. The most crucial facet is arguably the novelty — 35 U.S. Code § 102 rejects more recent applications that have very similar prior arts. Such novelty evaluations differ the patent approval prediction from conventional document classification — Successful patent applications may share similar writing patterns; however, too-similar newer applications would receive the opposite label, thus confusing standard document classifiers (e.g., BERT). To address this issue, we propose a novel framework that unifies the document classifier with handcrafted features, particularly time-dependent novelty scores. Specifically, we formulate the novelty scores by comparing each application with millions of prior arts using a hybrid of efficient filters and a neural bi-encoder. Moreover, we impose a new regularization term into the classification objective to enforce the monotonic change of approval prediction w.r.t. novelty scores. From extensive experiments on a large-scale USPTO dataset, we find that standard BERT fine-tuning can partially learn the correct relationship between novelty and approvals from inconsistent data. However, our time-dependent novelty features offer a boost on top of it. Also, our monotonic regularization, while shrinking the search space, can drive the optimizer to better local optima, yielding a further small performance gain.