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Prior art: To search or not to search

  • Atal, Vidya
  • Bar, Talia

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 28 (2010)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 507-521

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Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:28:y:2010:i:5:p:507-521
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

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  1. Suzanne Scotchmer & Jerry Green, 1990. "Novelty and Disclosure in Patent Law," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 131-146, Spring.
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  7. Howard F. Chang, 1995. "Patent Scope, Antitrust Policy, and Cumulative Innovation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(1), pages 34-57, Spring.
  8. Klemperer, Paul, 1990. "How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?," CEPR Discussion Papers 392, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Juan Alcácer & Michelle Gittelman, 2006. "Patent Citations as a Measure of Knowledge Flows: The Influence of Examiner Citations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 774-779, November.
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  11. Langinier, Corinne & Marcoul, Philippe, 2007. "Patents, Search of Prior Art, and Revelation of Information," Staff General Research Papers 10489, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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