Can the Patent Office Be Fixed?

17 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2010 Last revised: 28 Apr 2020

Date Written: August 29, 2010


How can we fix the PTO, allowing examiners to effectively distinguish between patentable and unpatentable inventions, without slowing the process to a crawl or wasting a bunch of money? This essay reviews the recent literature and considers a number of proposals and their problems. It concludes that we can make the PTO better, but are unlikely to solve the problem of bad patents.

Keywords: intellectual property, patent, PTO, patent reform

JEL Classification: O34

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A., Can the Patent Office Be Fixed? (August 29, 2010). Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 396, Rules for Growth 367 (2011), Available at SSRN: or

Mark A. Lemley (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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