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Probabilistic Patents

  • Lemley, Mark A.
  • Shapiro, Carl

Economists often assume that a patent gives its owner a well-defined legal right to exclude others from practicing the invention described in the patent. In practice, however, the rights afforded to patent holders are highly uncertain. Under patent law, a patent is no guarantee of exclusion but more precisely a legal right to try to exclude. Since only 0.1% of all patents are litigated to trial, and since nearly half of fully litigated patents are declared invalid, this distinction is critical to understanding the economic impact of patents. The growing recognition among economists and legal scholars that patents are probabilistic property rights has significant implications for our understanding of patents in four important areas: (1) reform of the system by which patents are granted; (2) the legal treatment of patents in litigation; (3) the incentives of patent holders and alleged infringers to settle their disputes through licensing or cross-licensing agreements rather than litigate them to completion; and (4) the antitrust limits on agreements between rivals that settle actual or threatened patent litigation.

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Paper provided by Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley in its series Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series with number qt9xf1488p.

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Date of creation: 14 Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:compol:qt9xf1488p
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  1. Harhoff, Dietmar & Reitzig, Markus, 2002. "Determinants of Opposition Against EPO Patent Grants - The Case of Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals," CEPR Discussion Papers 3645, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Pakes, Ariel S, 1986. "Patents as Options: Some Estimates of the Value of Holding European Patent Stocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 755-84, July.
  3. Carl Shapiro, 2003. "Antitrust Limits to Patent Settlements," Law and Economics 0303004, EconWPA.
  4. Cooter, Robert D & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1989. "Economic Analysis of Legal Disputes and Their Resolution," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1067-97, September.
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  6. Graham, Stuart J. H. & Hall, Bronwyn H. & Harhoff, Dietmar & Mowery, David C., 2002. "Post-Issue Patent "Quality Control": A Comparative Study of US Patent Re-Examinations and European Patent Oppositions," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt2qt097bd, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  7. Adam B. Jaffe, 1999. "The U.S. Patent System in Transition: Policy Innovation and the Innovation Process," NBER Working Papers 7280, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lee, Tom & Wilde, Louis L, 1980. "Market Structure and Innovation: A Reformulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 429-36, March.
  9. Ilya Segal, 1999. "Contracting With Externalities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 337-388, May.
  10. Hall, Bronwyn H & Ziedonis, Rosemarie Ham, 2001. "The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 101-28, Spring.
  11. James Bessen & Robert M Hunt, 2004. "An Empirical Look at Software Patents," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000000167, David K. Levine.
  12. Jay Pil Choi, 2010. "Patent Pools And Cross-Licensing In The Shadow Of Patent Litigation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(2), pages 441-460, 05.
  13. Marco Alan C., 2004. "The Selection Effects (and Lack Thereof) in Patent Litigation: Evidence from Trials," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-47, September.
  14. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
  15. Lanjouw, Jean O & Schankerman, Mark, 2001. "Characteristics of Patent Litigation: A Window on Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 129-51, Spring.
  16. Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2005. "Market Value and Patent Citations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 16-38, Spring.
  17. Reinganum, Jennifer F., 1989. "The timing of innovation: Research, development, and diffusion," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 849-908 Elsevier.
  18. Jerry R. Green & Suzanne Scotchmer, 1995. "On the Division of Profit in Sequential Innovation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(1), pages 20-33, Spring.
  19. 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.
  20. Jean O. Lanjouw & Mark Schankerman, 2004. "Patent Quality and Research Productivity: Measuring Innovation with Multiple Indicators," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 441-465, 04.
  21. Michael L. Katz, 1986. "An Analysis of Cooperative Research and Development," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(4), pages 527-543, Winter.
  22. Wesley M Cohen & Richard R Nelson & John P Walsh, 2003. "Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (Or Not)," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000624, David K. Levine.
  23. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1991. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Cumulative Research and the Patent Law," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 29-41, Winter.
  24. Lerner, Josh, 1995. "Patenting in the Shadow of Competitors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 463-95, October.
  25. 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 405-32, December.
  26. Nancy T. Gallini, 2002. "The Economics of Patents: Lessons from Recent U.S. Patent Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 131-154, Spring.
  27. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1987. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(3), pages 783-832.
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