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Inventors and Impostors: An Economic Analysis of Patent Examination

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  • Florian Schuett

Abstract

The objective of patent examination is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Good applications - those satisfying the patentability criteria, particularly novelty and nonobviousness - should be accepted, while bad applications should be rejected. How should incentives for examiners be designed to further this objective? This paper develops a theoretical model of patent examination to address the question. It argues that examination can be described as a moral-hazard problem followed by an adverse-selection problem: the examiner must be given incentives to exert effort (looking for evidence to reject), but also to truthfully reveal the evidence he finds (or lack thereof). The model can explain the puzzling compensation scheme in use at the U.S. patent office, where examiners are essentially rewarded for granting patents, as well as variation in compensation schemes across patent offices. It also has implications for the retention of examiners and for administrative patent review.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Schuett, 2009. "Inventors and Impostors: An Economic Analysis of Patent Examination," Economics Working Papers ECO2009/28, European University Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2009/28
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elisabetta Iossa & Patrick Legros, 2004. "Auditing and Property Rights," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(2), pages 356-372, Summer.
    2. Régibeau, P & Rockett, K, 2003. "Are More Important Patents Approved More Slowly and Should They Be?," Economics Discussion Papers 2850, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    3. Hyun Song Shin, 1998. "Adversarial and Inquisitorial Procedures in Arbitration," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(2), pages 378-405, Summer.
    4. 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.
    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. Langinier, Corinne & Marcoul, Philippe, 2007. "Patents, Search of Prior Art, and Revelation of Information," Staff General Research Papers Archive 10489, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    7. Canice Prendergast, 2007. "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 180-196, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Johannes Koenen & Martin Peitz, 2012. "The Economics of Pending Patents," Chapters,in: Recent Advances in the Analysis of Competition Policy and Regulation, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Schankerman, Mark & Schütt, Florian, 2016. "Screening for Patent Quality : Examination, Fees, and the Courts," Discussion Paper 2016-046, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    3. Lei, Zhen & Wright, Brian D., 2017. "Why weak patents? Testing the examiner ignorance hypothesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 43-56.
    4. 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.
    5. Yamauchi, Isamu & Nagaoka, Sadao, 2015. "Does the outsourcing of prior art search increase the efficiency of patent examination? Evidence from Japan," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(8), pages 1601-1614.
    6. Francois Lafond & Daniel Kim, 2017. "Long-run dynamics of the U.S. patent classification system," Papers 1703.02104, arXiv.org.
    7. Régibeau, P & Rockett, K & Mariam, S, 2012. "Patent Pendency, Learning Effects, and Innovation Importance at the US Patent Office," Economics Discussion Papers 2863, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    8. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:5:p:1005-1019 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    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. 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.
    12. OKADA Yoshimi & NAITO Yusuke & NAGAOKA Sadao, 2016. "Contribution of Patent Examination to Making the Patent Scope Consistent with the Invention: Evidence from Japan," Discussion papers 16092, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    innovation; patent office; soft information; intrinsic motivation; incentives for bureaucrats;

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General

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