Low-Quality Patents in the Eye of the Beholder: Evidence from Multiple Examiners

26 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2019

See all articles by Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Gaétan de Rassenfosse

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

William E. Griffiths

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics

Adam B. Jaffe

Brandeis University; Motu Economic and Public Policy Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Elizabeth Webster

Swinburne University of Technology; University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research

Date Written: November 13, 2019

Abstract

A low-quality patent system threatens to slow the pace of technological progress. Concerns about low patent quality are supported by estimates from litigation studies suggesting that the majority of patents granted by the U.S. patent office should not have been issued. This paper proposes a new Bayesian method for measuring patent quality, based on twin patent applications granted at one office but refused at another office. Our method allows us to distinguish whether low-quality patents are issued because an office implements a (consistently) low standard, or because it violates its own standard. The results suggest that quality in patent systems is higher than previously thought. In particular, relative to the own standard of each office, the percentage of mistakenly granted patents is under 10 percent for all offices. The Japanese patent office has a greater percentage of mistakenly granted patents than those of Europe, the United States, Korea and China, largely because it has a higher standard.

Keywords: inventive step, non-obviousness, patent quality, weak patent

JEL Classification: O34, L43, K41

Suggested Citation

de Rassenfosse, Gaétan and Griffiths, William and Jaffe, Adam B. and Webster, Elizabeth M., Low-Quality Patents in the Eye of the Beholder: Evidence from Multiple Examiners (November 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807141

Gaétan De Rassenfosse (Contact Author)

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ( email )

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William Griffiths

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

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Adam B. Jaffe

Brandeis University ( email )

Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States
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Motu Economic and Public Policy Research ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Elizabeth M. Webster

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )

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Australia

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research ( email )

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Australia

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