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Fixing the Patent Office


  • Mark A. Lemley


How can we allow patent examiners to effectively distinguish between patentable and unpatentable inventions, without slowing the process to a crawl or wasting a bunch of money? This essay reviews the recent literature and considers a number of proposals and their limitations. It concludes that the system can be improved, but that we are unlikely to solve the problem of bad patents altogether. The focus in reform discussions should be on understanding and changing applicant and examiner incentives rather than simply spending money.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark A. Lemley, 2012. "Fixing the Patent Office," NBER Working Papers 18081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18081
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Arruñada, Benito & Hansen, Stephen, 2015. "Organizing public good provision: Lessons from Managerial Accounting," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 185-191.

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    JEL classification:

    • K30 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - General

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