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Time In Purgatory: Examining the Grant Lag for U.S. Patent Applications


  • Popp David

    () (Syracuse University)

  • Juhl Ted

    () (University of Kansas)

  • Johnson Daniel K.N.

    () (Colorado College)


As patent applications increase, and the range of patentable technologies increases, the length of time it takes for an invention to go through the examination process at the U.S. Patent Office has increased. Concerns over the distributional effects of these changes have been expressed during policy debates. We use data on U.S. patent applications and grants to ask who is affected by longer grant lags. We augment this analysis with interviews of patent examiners, leading to a better understanding of the examination process. Our analysis finds that differences across technology are most important. These differences do not erode over time, suggesting that learning effects alone will not reduce grant lags. Inventor characteristics have statistically significant effects, but the magnitudes are small.

Suggested Citation

  • Popp David & Juhl Ted & Johnson Daniel K.N., 2004. "Time In Purgatory: Examining the Grant Lag for U.S. Patent Applications," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-45, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:topics.4:y:2004:i:1:n:29

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Popp, David & Santen, Nidhi & Fisher-Vanden, Karen & Webster, Mort, 2013. "Technology variation vs. R&D uncertainty: What matters most for energy patent success?," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 505-533.
    2. Corinne Langinier & Stephanie Lluis, 2015. "Departure and Promotion of U.S. Patent Examiners: Do Patent Characteristics Matter?," Working Papers 1506, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2015.
    3. Sungchul Choi & Hyunseok Park, 2016. "Investigation of Strategic Changes Using Patent Co-Inventor Network Analysis: The Case of Samsung Electronics," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(12), pages 1-13, December.
    4. Palangkaraya, Alfons & Jensen, Paul H. & Webster, Elizabeth, 2008. "Applicant behaviour in patent examination request lags," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 243-245, December.
    5. Dietmar Harhoff & Stefan Wagner, 2009. "The Duration of Patent Examination at the European Patent Office," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(12), pages 1969-1984, December.
    6. Cotropia, Christopher A. & Lemley, Mark A. & Sampat, Bhaven, 2013. "Do applicant patent citations matter?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 844-854.
    7. McCann, Brian T. & Folta, Timothy B., 2011. "Performance differentials within geographic clusters," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 104-123, January.
    8. Josh Lerner & Julie Wulf, 2007. "Innovation and Incentives: Evidence from Corporate R&D," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 634-644, November.
    9. Murray, Fiona & Stern, Scott, 2007. "Do formal intellectual property rights hinder the free flow of scientific knowledge?: An empirical test of the anti-commons hypothesis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 648-687, August.
    10. Koenen, Johannes & Peitz, Martin, 2015. "Firm reputation and incentives to “milk” pending patents," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 18-29.
    11. Hohberger, Jan, 2016. "Diffusion of science-based inventions," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 66-77.
    12. John S. Landon-Lane & Catherine Y. Co & Myeong-Su Yun, 2006. "Inter-state dynamics of invention activities, 1930-2000," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(8), pages 1111-1134.
    13. Petra Moser & Paul W. Rhode, 2011. "Did Plant Patents Create the American Rose?," NBER Chapters,in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited, pages 413-438 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Aditi Mehta & Marc Rysman & Tim Simcoe, 2006. "Identifying the Age Profile of Patent Citations," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2006-022, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    15. Hoenen, Sebastian & Kolympiris, Christos & Schoenmakers, Wilfred & Kalaitzandonakes, Nicholas, 2014. "The diminishing signaling value of patents between early rounds of venture capital financing," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(6), pages 956-989.
    16. Adams, Pamela & Fontana, Roberto & Malerba, Franco, 2013. "The magnitude of innovation by demand in a sectoral system: The role of industrial users in semiconductors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-14.
    17. repec:eee:worbus:v:53:y:2018:i:2:p:164-176 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Ryan L. Lampe & Petra Moser, 2012. "Do Patent Pools Encourage Innovation? Evidence from 20 U.S. Industries under the New Deal," NBER Working Papers 18316, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Juan Alcacer & Michelle Gittelman & Bhaven Sampat, 2008. "Applicant and Examiner Citations in US Patents: An Overview and Analysis," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-016, Harvard Business School.
    20. Batabyal, Amitrajeet A. & Nijkamp, Peter, 2008. "Is there a tradeoff between average patent pendency and examination errors?," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 150-158.
    21. Nicolas van Zeebroeck, 2011. "Long Live Patents: the Increasing Life Expectancy of Patent Applications and its Determinants," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 2(3).
    22. Alcácer, Juan & Gittelman, Michelle & Sampat, Bhaven, 2009. "Applicant and examiner citations in U.S. patents: An overview and analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 415-427, March.
    23. Dietl, M & Skrok, ? & Benalcazar, P & G?tkowski, M & Rockett, K, 2017. "Pendency and Thickets," Economics Discussion Papers 19979, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    24. Yang, Deli, 2008. "Pendency and grant ratios of invention patents: A comparative study of the US and China," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6-7), pages 1035-1046, July.

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