The Economics of Patent Backlog

37 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2015 Last revised: 12 Jul 2016

See all articles by Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Gaétan de Rassenfosse

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Alexandra K. Zaby

Seeburg Castle University

Date Written: July 10, 2016


Patent offices around the world face massive backlogs of applications, which threatens to slow down the pace of technological progress. However, economists lack analytical tools to tackle the issue. This paper provides a model of patent backlogs inspired by the literature on traffic congestion. Inventors are heterogeneous with respect to their desired duration of patent pendency. They can accelerate or slow down the duration of pendency by adapting their filing strategy. We use our model to discuss three policy responses: increasing examination capacity; introducing penalty fees; and altering the value of pending applications.

Keywords: congestion model, patent backlog, pendency, strategic filing

JEL Classification: O34, R48

Suggested Citation

de Rassenfosse, Gaétan and Zaby, Alexandra Karin, The Economics of Patent Backlog (July 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Gaétan De Rassenfosse (Contact Author)

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

Station 5
Odyssea 1.04
1015 Lausanne, CH-1015

Alexandra Karin Zaby

Seeburg Castle University ( email )

Seeburgstr. 8
Seekirchen am Wallersee, 5201

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