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Prior art: To search or not to search

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  • Atal, Vidya
  • Bar, Talia

Abstract

To determine patentability, inventions are evaluated in light of existing prior art. Innovators have a duty to disclose any prior art that they are aware of, but have no obligation to search. We study innovators' incentives to search for prior art, their search intensities and the timing of search. We distinguish between early state of the art search--conducted before R&D investment, and novelty search--conducted right before applying for a patent. We identify conditions in which innovators have no incentive to search for prior art. Search intensity increases with R&D cost, the examiners' expected search effort, and with patenting fees. We also find that innovators prefer to correlate their search technology with that of the patent office. In light of our model, we discuss the implications of some proposed policy reforms.

Suggested Citation

  • Atal, Vidya & Bar, Talia, 2010. "Prior art: To search or not to search," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 507-521, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:28:y:2010:i:5:p:507-521
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Adam B. Jaffe & Gaétan de Rassenfosse, 2017. "Patent citation data in social science research: Overview and best practices," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 68(6), pages 1360-1374, June.
    3. Langinier, Corinne & Marcoul, Philippe, 2020. "Monetary and implicit incentives of patent examiners," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 110(C).
    4. Bar, Talia & Kalinowski, Jesse, 2019. "Patent validity and the timing of settlements," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    5. Corinne Langinier & Philippe Marcoul, 2019. "Subjective performance of patent examiners, implicit contracts, and self‐funded patent offices," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(3), pages 251-266, April.
    6. Bruns, Stephan B. & Kalthaus, Martin, 2020. "Flexibility in the selection of patent counts: Implications for p-hacking and evidence-based policymaking," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
    7. Baruffaldi, Stefano H. & Simeth, Markus, 2020. "Patents and knowledge diffusion: The effect of early disclosure," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(4).
    8. Corinne Langinier & Philippe Marcoul, 2016. "The Search of Prior Art and the Revelation of Information by Patent Applicants," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 49(3), pages 399-427, November.
    9. Andrew Eckert & Corinne Langinier, 2014. "A Survey Of The Economics Of Patent Systems And Procedures," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(5), pages 996-1015, December.
    10. Vidya Atal & Talia Bar, 2014. "Patent Quality and a Two-Tiered Patent System," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 503-540, September.
    11. Leiponen, Aija & Delcamp, Henry, 2019. "The anatomy of a troll? Patent licensing business models in the light of patent reassignment data," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 298-311.
    12. Kwon, Seokbeom, 2021. "The prevalence of weak patents in the United States: A new method to identify weak patents and the implications for patent policy," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    13. H. Kevin Steensma & Mukund Chari & Ralph Heidl, 2015. "The quest for expansive intellectual property rights and the failure to disclose known relevant prior art," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(8), pages 1186-1204, August.
    14. Johnson, Justin P., 2014. "Defensive publishing by a leading firm," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 15-27.
    15. Florian Schuett, 2013. "Inventors and Impostors: An Analysis of Patent Examination with Self-Selection of Firms into R&D," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 660-699, September.

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