The Patent Quality Control Process: Can We Afford an (Rationally) Ignorant Patent Offices?

37 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2008 Last revised: 5 Dec 2014

See all articles by Jing-Yuan Chiou

Jing-Yuan Chiou

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies

Date Written: May 1, 2008


This paper considers patent granting as a two-tiered process, which consists of patent office examination (public enforcement) and court challenges (private enforcement). It argues that, when the patent-holder has private information about the patent validity, (i) a weak patent is more likely to be settled and thus escape court challenges than a strong patent; and (ii) when the economy is suffered from low patent quality problem, a tighter examination by the patent office may strengthen private scrutiny over a weak patent. Both work against Lemley (2001)'s hypothesis of a "rationally ignorant'' patent office.

The paper then introduces other policy instruments. It shows that (i) application fees, used as a tool to deter opportunistic patenting, may crowd out private enforcement but cannot replace public enforcement; and (ii) the usefulness of a pre-grant challenge procedure is subject to several restrictions, including the private challenger's timing choice.

Keywords: Case Selection, Patent Quality, Public and Private Enforcement of Law

JEL Classification: K40, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Chiou, Jing-Yuan, The Patent Quality Control Process: Can We Afford an (Rationally) Ignorant Patent Offices? (May 1, 2008). CLEA 2008 Meetings Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Jing-Yuan Chiou (Contact Author)

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies ( email )

Complesso San Micheletto
Lucca, 55100
+39 0583 4326 734 (Phone)

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