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Pre-Emptive Patenting: Securing Market Exclusion and Freedom of Operation


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  • Dominique Guellec
  • Catalina Martinez
  • Maria Pluvia Zuniga


We investigate statistically the characteristics, functioning and incidence of pre-emptive patenting, defined as patent filings whose main effect is to hamper the grant of other patents. Patent applications can be used to prevent the grant of exclusive rights on markets and technologies to others in order to ensure freedom of operation to their holder or keep patent-less competitors out of the market. Combining data from examination outcomes and prior art at the European Patent Office (EPO), we develop a methodology to identify pre-emptive patent applications. We find evidence of pre-emption associated to patent applications cited as compromising patentability while being deemed non inventive. Furthermore, amongst them, those which are withdrawn by the applicant have the strongest pre-emptive power. The coincidence of low inventiveness and high pre-emptive impact supports the idea that some of these patents may be strategically designed by their applicants to block patenting by others. Nous analysons statistiquement les caractéristiques, le fonctionnement et les effets des brevets préemptifs, définis comme des (demandes de) brevets dont l’effet principal est d’empêcher la délivrance d’autres brevets. Les demandes de brevets peuvent être utilisées pour empêcher la délivrance de droits exclusifs à d’autres parties sur des marchés et des technologies en vue d’assurer la liberté de manœuvre à leur titulaire ou de maintenir des compétiteurs sans brevets à l’écart du marché. Combinant des données du résultat de l’examen et de l’art antérieur de l’Office Européen des Brevets (OEB), nous développons une méthodologie qui identifie les demandes préemptives de brevets. Nous trouvons des évidences de préemption pour des demandes de brevets citées comme compromettant la brevetabilité d’autres demandes alors qu’elles ne sont pas elles-mêmes jugés inventives. De plus parmi elles, celles qui sont abandonnées par le demandeur lui-même ont le pouvoir préemptif le plus fort. La coïncidence de faible inventivité et de pouvoir préemptif fort suggère que certaines de ces demandes de brevets sont stratégiquement conçues par leur titulaire en vue de bloquer la prise de brevet par d’autres.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers with number 2009/8.

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Date of creation: 30 Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:stiaaa:2009/8-en

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Keywords: patents; offensive and defensive patenting; citations; pre-emptive patenting; blocking patents;

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Cited by:
  1. Christian Bj�rnskov & Niklas Potrafke, 2012. "Political Ideology and Economic Freedom Across Canadian Provinces," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 38(2), pages 143-166.
  2. Grimpe, Christoph & Hussinger, Katrin, 2014. "Pre-empted patents, infringed patents and firms’ participation in markets for technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 543-554.
  3. Christian Le Bas & Julien Pénin, 2014. "Patents and innovation : Are the brakes broken, or how to restore patents’ dynamic efficiency ?," Working Papers of BETA 2014-02, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  4. Malva, Antonio Della & Hussinger, Katrin, 2012. "Corporate science in the patent system: An analysis of the semiconductor technology," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 118-135.
  5. Gaétan de Rassenfosse & Hélène Dernis & Geert Boedt, 2014. "An Introduction to the Patstat Database with Example Queries," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne wp2014n08, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.


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