Low-Quality Patents in the Eye of the Beholder: Evidence from Multiple Examiners
41 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2016 Last revised: 5 Feb 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2017
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: Suggested Citation