The Reciprocity of Search
George Mason University School of Law
November 30, 2011
Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 66, No. 1, January 2013, pp. 1-64
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 11-52
When discussing search in patent law, everyone considers the problem in terms of producers looking for patentees. But search is reciprocal. In designing a patent system, we can have producers look for patentees, or patentees look for producers. Either will result in the ex ante negotiation that is the goal of a property system. The legal rule that produces the most efficient social outcome depends on identifying the party with the lower search cost.
The corollary is that patentees should have the duty of search when they are the lower cost searcher. For example, if there are thousands of patents covering a product, but only one producer in the industry, then it is likely to be more efficient to have patentees find the well-known producer to initiate licensing negotiations, rather than have the producer search for each of thousands of unknown patentees. The Article provides some suggestions on how patent law can utilize the reciprocity insight to efficiently reduce inadvertent infringement and encourage legitimate commercialization.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 65
Keywords: Coase theorem, reciprocity of causation, cost allocation, least cost avoider, patent search, information cost, patent thicket, contributory negligence
JEL Classification: K11, O34
Date posted: December 1, 2011 ; Last revised: January 2, 2015