Fixing the Patent Office

16 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2012 Last revised: 2 Oct 2013

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 15, 2012


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 altogether. Rather than focusing on adding money, the focus must increasingly turn to understanding and changing applicant and examiner incentives.

JEL Classification: K, K23, O31, O34, O4

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A., Fixing the Patent Office (March 15, 2012). Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 422. 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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