Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Why weak patents? Rational ignorance or pro-"customer" Tilt?

Contents:

Author Info

  • Lei, Zhen
  • Wright, Brian D.

Abstract

The issuance of weak patents is widely viewed as a fundamental problem in the current US patent system. Reasons that have been offered for the granting of weak patents by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) include examiners’ “rational ignorance” of the patentability of applications and pro-“customer” rules and institutions that create incentives for examiners to grant patents of dubious validity to their “customers”- applicants. In this paper, we study whether US examiners’ behavior in prior art search betrays their assessment of applications’ patentability. For a sample of US patents for which applications were also filed at the European Patent Office (EPO), we construct a measure of the fraction of prior art that is missed by US examiners. We find that this measure significantly explains the probability of receiving a patent at the EPO. The results are robust to different empirical specifications. US examiners’ prior art searches indicate that they are, on average, not “rationally ignorant”. On the contrary, they identify and dedicate more search effort to those applications that seem more problematic, because they bear the burden of proof of non-patentability. Our study offers empirical evidence that a systematic problem of weak patents likely exists, and suggests that the problem may be more strongly attributable to the pro-applicant rules and policies than to examiners’ ignorance. The current prevalence of weak patents does not appear to be caused at the margin by lack of resources at the USPTO.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/49279
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin with number 49279.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea09:49279

Contact details of provider:
Postal: 555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
Phone: (414) 918-3190
Fax: (414) 276-3349
Email:
Web page: http://www.aaea.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: Weak patents; Rational ignorance; cited prior art; missed prior art; Industrial Organization; Institutional and Behavioral Economics; Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies;

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Stuart J. H. Graham & Bronwyn H. Hall & Dietmar Harhoff & David C. Mowery, 2003. "Post-Issue Patent "Quality Control": A Comparative Study of US Patent Re-examinations and European Patent Oppositions," Industrial Organization 0303009, EconWPA.
  2. Graham, Stuart J.H. & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2006. "Can Post-Grant Reviews Improve Patent System Design? A Twin Study of US and European Patents," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 38, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  3. Lanjouw, Jean O & Pakes, Ariel & Putnam, Jonathan, 1998. "How to Count Patents and Value Intellectual Property: The Uses of Patent Renewal and Application Data," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 405-32, December.
  4. Sakakibara, Mariko & Branstetter, Lee, 2001. "Do Stronger Patents Induce More Innovation? Evidence from the 1988 Japanese Patent Law Reforms," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 77-100, Spring.
  5. Harhoff, Dietmar & Reitzig, Markus, 2002. "Determinants of Opposition Against EPO Patent Grants - The Case of Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals," CEPR Discussion Papers 3645, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Lanjouw, Jean Olson, 1998. "Patent Protection in the Shadow of Infringement: Simulation Estimations of Patent Value," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 671-710, October.
  7. Lemley, Mark A. & Shapiro, Carl, 2004. "Probabilistic Patents," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt9xf1488p, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  8. Farrell, Joseph & Shapiro, Carl, 2007. "How Strong Are Weak Patents?," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt8vg425vj, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  9. Hall, Bronwyn H & Jaffe, Adam B & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2001. "The NBER Patent Citations Data File: Lessons, Insights and Methodological Tools," CEPR Discussion Papers 3094, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Harhoff, Dietmar & Scherer, Frederic M. & Vopel, Katrin, 2003. "Citations, family size, opposition and the value of patent rights," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1343-1363, September.
  11. Jay Pil Choi, 2005. "Live and Let Live: A Tale of Weak Patents," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 724-733, 04/05.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Ralph Siebert, 2013. "Are Ex Ante and Ex Post Licensing Agreements Useful Instruments to Lessen Uncertainty in R&D?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4535, CESifo Group Munich.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:aaea09:49279. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.