Patent Pending – Why Faster Isn’t Always Better

45 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2011 Last revised: 3 Jan 2015

See all articles by Joachim Henkel

Joachim Henkel

TUM School of Management - Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Florian Jell

Technische Universität München (TUM)

Date Written: October 1, 2010


In this study we analyze why firms intentionally delay the patenting process. We analyze 443,988 applications at the German Patent Office, which — due to its comparatively long, seven-year examination deferral system — provides its applicants with a very strong leverage for increasing pendency of their applications. More than 50 percent of all filings show applicant-induced delays, more than 20 percent even for the maximum duration of seven years. A mail survey that was answered by 445 inventors (response rate 34.6 percent) of such patent applications reveals the motives behind the delays. The more importance is attributed to “create insecurity” and “gain time for evaluation” as filing motives, the more likely applicants delay the patent process. Implications from our study are twofold. Whereas patent applications that are withdrawn after a re-evaluation by the applicant disburden the patent office, patents that are filed solely in order to create insecurity give cause for concern. Such patent applications reduce transparency of the patent system. Inefficient relocation of resources from innovative activities to patent screening and the development of invent-around solutions by third parties may result. This would ultimately hamper innovation. Our results suggest that a reduction of the maximum examination deferral period from seven to three years would mitigate that problem.

Suggested Citation

Henkel, Joachim and Jell, Florian, Patent Pending – Why Faster Isn’t Always Better (October 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Joachim Henkel

TUM School of Management - Technical University of Munich (TUM) ( email )

Arcisstr. 21
Munich, D-80333

Florian Jell (Contact Author)

Technische Universität München (TUM) ( email )

Arcisstrasse 21
Munich, DE 80333

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