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150 Years of Patent Office Practice

  • Josh Lerner

An extensive theoretical literature has examined the impact of information problems on interactions between government bodies and private firms. One little-explored empirical testing ground is the patent system. This paper examines the administrative practices of patent offices in sixty countries over a 150-year period. I show that the usage of patent renewal fees and other mechanisms to grant discretion to patentees is consistent with theoretical suggestions. Nations where information asymmetries between government officials and patentees are likely to be more prevalent-larger countries, wealthier economies, and those where international trade is more important-incorporate discretionary features into their patent systems more frequently. I also find evidence that policymakers are more likely to restrict patent office officials' flexibility and to divide the responsibility for determining patentability between the patent office and the courts when information problems are likely to be severe.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7477.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Josh Lerner, 2005. "150 Years of Patent Office Practice," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 112-143.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7477
Note: PR
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  1. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
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  3. Josh Lerner, 2003. "150 Years of Patent Protection," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000587, David K. Levine.
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  8. Suzanne Scotchmer & Jerry Green, 1990. "Novelty and Disclosure in Patent Law," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 131-146, Spring.
  9. Michael Kremer, 1997. "Patent Buy-Outs: A Mechanism for Encouraging Innovation," NBER Working Papers 6304, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1999. "On the Optimality of the Patent Renewal System," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 181-196, Summer.
  14. Ariel Pakes, 1984. "Patents as Options: Some Estimates of the Value of Holding European Patent Stocks," NBER Working Papers 1340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Kremer, Michael R., 1998. "Patent Buyouts: A Mechanism for Encouraging Innovation," Scholarly Articles 3693705, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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