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Discrimination against foreigners in the U.S. patent system

Author

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  • Gaetan de Rassenfosse

    (Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne)

  • Reza Hosseini

    (Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne)

Abstract

Inventions of foreign origin are about ten percentage points less likely to be granted a U.S. patent than domestic inventions. An empirical analysis of 1.5 million U.S. patent applications identifies three systematic differences between foreign and domestic patent applications that partly explain this bias. They include differences in patent agents, the financial resources of the applicants, and the level of effort that applicants put into the prosecution process. We find no evidence of disparate treatment (‘intentional discrimination’) of foreigners. Instead, our evidence points to a disparate impact (‘unintentional discrimination’) of the U.S. patent system on foreign inventors. Our results suggest unequal access to the patent system for foreigners compared to locals (but also for small U.S. firms). Giving examiners the power of (truly) rejecting a patent application may be one solution to level the playing field between foreigners and locals, but also between large and small firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Gaetan de Rassenfosse & Reza Hosseini, 2020. "Discrimination against foreigners in the U.S. patent system," Working Papers 12, Chair of Innovation and IP Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:iip:wpaper:12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    foreign bias; discrimination; disparate impact; national treatment principle; patent system;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism

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