Low-Quality Patents in the Eye of the Beholder: Evidence from Multiple Examiners

41 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2016 Last revised: 5 Feb 2017

See all articles by Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Adam B. Jaffe

Motu Economic and Public Policy Research; Brandeis University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Elizabeth Webster

Swinburne University of Technology; University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research

Date Written: January 1, 2017

Abstract

A low-quality patent system threatens to slow the pace of technological progress. Concerns about low patent quality are supported by estimates from litigation studies suggesting that the majority of patents granted by the U.S. patent office should not have been issued. This paper proposes a new way of measuring patent quality, based on twin patent applications granted at one office but refused at another office, applied to the five largest patent offices. Our method allows us to distinguish low-quality patents issued because an office has a low standard from patents issued in violation of an office’s own standard, however high or low (so-called ‘weak patents’). The results suggest that quality in patent systems is higher than previously thought; in particular the percentage of ‘weak’ patents is in single digits for all offices, although the U.S. patent office’s performance is poorer than those of Europe and Japan.

Keywords: inventive step, non-obviousness, patent quality, weak patent

JEL Classification: O34, L43, K41

Suggested Citation

de Rassenfosse, Gaétan and Jaffe, Adam B. and Webster, Elizabeth M., Low-Quality Patents in the Eye of the Beholder: Evidence from Multiple Examiners (January 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807141

Gaétan De Rassenfosse (Contact Author)

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Station 5
Odyssea 1.04
1015 Lausanne, CH-1015
Switzerland

Adam B. Jaffe

Motu Economic and Public Policy Research ( email )

Level 1, 93 Cuba Street
P.O. Box 24390
Wellington, 6142
New Zealand

HOME PAGE: http://motu.org.nz

Brandeis University ( email )

Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States
781-736-2251 (Phone)
781-736-2263 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.brandeis.edu/global/people/faculty/jaff

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Elizabeth M. Webster

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122
Australia

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
20
Abstract Views
170
PlumX Metrics