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When Do Applicants Search for Prior Art?

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  • Bhaven N. Sampat
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    Abstract

    There is concern that patent examiners lack the resources, capabilities, and incentives to properly identify the prior art against which patent applications are evaluated and that, as a result, they issue a large number of low-quality patents. In this context, the extent to which applicants have incentives to contribute prior art is an important question. This paper uses data on examiner and applicant citations in U.S. patents to examine this question. The data show that applicants contribute a surprisingly low share of citations to previous patents and routinely fail to identify even their own previous patents. However, there are also stark differences across fields. Within fields, and even within firms, there is self-sorting: applicants contribute more prior art for their more important inventions. The results suggest that incentives to search for prior art vary across industries and inventions, which reflects underlying differences in the strategic reasons for obtaining patent protection. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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    File URL: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/651959
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 53 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (05)
    Pages: 399-416

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:53:y:2010:i:2:p:399-416

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    Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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    Cited by:
    1. Cotropia, Christopher A. & Lemley, Mark A. & Sampat, Bhaven, 2013. "Do applicant patent citations matter?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 844-854.
    2. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Bhaven N. Sampat, 2011. "The Diffusion of Scientific Knowledge across Time and Space: Evidence from Professional Transitions for the Superstars of Medicine," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited, pages 107-155 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Yamauchi, Isamu & Nagaoka, Sadao, 2013. "Does the outsourcing of prior art search increase the efficiency of patent examination?," IIR Working Paper 13-12, Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University.

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