Does Patented Information Promote Progress?

54 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2016 Last revised: 26 Jun 2017

See all articles by Jonathan H. Ashtor

Jonathan H. Ashtor

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Date Written: June 22, 2017


We investigate the relationship between the exclusive rights of patents, their information disclosures, and the impact they have on the development of future technologies. We discover a significant positive relationship. Specifically, we find that the private rights and technological impact of patents rise and fall together and, moreover, that both are related to the quantity of new and useful technical information contained in their disclosures.

For the first time, we identify significant differences between the technological impact of valid patents compared to invalid patents, as measured by the future patented inventions that relate to the original patent. We further observe significant differences based on the reason for a patent’s invalidity, with failure to disclose novel technical information corresponding to the weakest future impact. Next, we trace these differences to quantifiable variations in the information content of valid patents relative to patents invalidated for lack of novelty, obviousness or indefiniteness. Finally, we complete the circuit by linking the breadth of a patent’s exclusive claims, when validly supported by its disclosure, to the impact that patent has on future technological progress. Taken together, we find that the greater the information content of a patent’s disclosure, the higher the probability it will be held valid and, in turn, the larger its expected positive impact on the development of future technologies.

This study contributes to patent and cumulative innovation scholarship by investigating how the information disclosure of patents relates to both the private value of their exclusive rights and the technological progress they promote. Furthermore, this study uncovers significant empirical differences between valid and invalid patents, which informs patent policy and may give rise to new analytics for predicting validity ex ante. Moreover, we offer unique metrics for directly analyzing the information content of any patent, providing tools for future research.

Keywords: Patents, Citations, Cumulative Innovation, Validity

JEL Classification: O3, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Ashtor, Jonathan H., Does Patented Information Promote Progress? (June 22, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan H. Ashtor (Contact Author)

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP ( email )

New York, NY 10019
United States
212-373-3823 (Phone)

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

United States

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