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Is the patent system a level playing field? The effect of patent attorney firms


  • Gaetan de Rassenfosse

    (Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne)

  • Paul Jensen

    (University of Melbourne)

  • T'Mir Julius

    (University of Melbourne)

  • Alfons Palangkaraya

    (Swinburne University of Technology)

  • Elizabeth Webster

    (Swinburne University of Technology)


The patent system underpins the business model of some of the fastest-growing companies. Used appropriately, it should support frontier technologies and nurture new firms. Used perniciously, it can stifle innovation and protect established technological behemoths. We analyse patent examination decisions at the American, European, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese patent offices and find evidence that patent attorney firms have a surprisingly large role in the patent system. Patent attorney firm quality is most important, vis-Ã -vis invention quality, in less codified and more rapidly changing technology areas such as software and ICT. Moreover, patent attorney firm quality matters more when invention quality is low. Finally, there is a significant inter-patent office variation, with a greater patent attorney firm quality effect at the USPTO.

Suggested Citation

  • Gaetan de Rassenfosse & Paul Jensen & T'Mir Julius & Alfons Palangkaraya & Elizabeth Webster, 2021. "Is the patent system a level playing field? The effect of patent attorney firms," Working Papers 15, Chair of Innovation and IP Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:iip:wpaper:15

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    More about this item


    appropriation; innovation; patent attorney firm; patent system;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • L43 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Legal Monopolies and Regulation or Deregulation
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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