Determinants of patent withdrawals: evidence from a sample of Italian applications with the EPO
This paper analyses the propensity to withdraw European patent applications within a regional sample of Italian applicants. The procedure for obtaining a granted patent from the EPO is composed of a series of sequential and selective steps imposing additional costs to the applicants. Accordingly, we argue that early withdrawals - i.e. those occurring before the proper examination process begins - should be treated separately from late withdrawals. Our findings show the probability of an early withdrawal is higher for applicants with lower resources and competencies and rises with the number of backward citations added by EPO examiners to the original application. Late withdrawals, instead, are negatively affected by one factor only: the size of patent family, which approximates the sunk costs born by applicants in order to extend the geographical scope of patent protection. Such a limited explanation suggests that the (unobserved) interventions of EPO examiners are likely to play a significant role in inducing late withdrawals.
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