IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ags/aaea09/49279.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lei, Zhen & Wright, Brian D., 2009. "Why weak patents? Rational ignorance or pro-"customer" Tilt?," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49279, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea09:49279
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/49279
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mark A. Lemley & Carl Shapiro, 2005. "Probabilistic Patents," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 75-98, Spring.
    2. Jean Olson Lanjouw, 1998. "Patent Protection in the Shadow of Infringement: Simulation Estimations of Patent Value," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(4), pages 671-710.
    3. Stuart J. H. Graham & Bronwyn H. Hall & Dietmar Harhoff & David C. Mowery, 2002. "Post-Issue Patent "Quality Control": A Comparative Study of US Patent Re-examinations and European Patent Oppositions," NBER Working Papers 8807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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 405-432, December.
    5. Joseph Farrell & Carl Shapiro, 2008. "How Strong Are Weak Patents?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1347-1369, September.
    6. 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.
    7. Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "The NBER Patent Citation Data File: Lessons, Insights and Methodological Tools," NBER Working Papers 8498, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. Harhoff, Dietmar & Reitzig, Markus, 2004. "Determinants of opposition against EPO patent grants--the case of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 443-480, April.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    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


    Cited by:

    1. Dietmar Harhoff & Georg von Graevenitz & Stefan Wagner, 2016. "Conflict Resolution, Public Goods, and Patent Thickets," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(3), pages 704-721, March.
    2. David Encaoua & Yassine Lefouili, 2009. "LICENSING 'WEAK' PATENTS -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 492-525, September.
    3. 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.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. 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). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aaeaaea.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.