Who Reads Patents?
Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 35, No. 5, p. 421, May 2017, doi/10.1038/nbt.3864
15 Pages Posted: 10 May 2017 Last revised: 18 Oct 2018
Date Written: May 9, 2017
One ostensible goal of the patent system is to encourage and facilitate dissemination of scientific knowledge, but legal scholars have asserted that scientists do not read patents, both because patents are obfuscated with legal jargon and because reading patents might lead to increased liability for "willful" patent infringement. There is relatively little evidence, however, about whether researchers actually read patents.
This article presents survey results from 832 scientific researchers in a variety of fields and industries. Overall, the responses revealed mixed experiences with the patent literature and substantial variation by field. While legal scholars will likely be surprised by the number of researchers who reported that they look to patents as a source of technical information, those who adhere to the view that disclosure to the scientific community is a hallmark of the patent process may be disappointed by the number of researchers who have never read a patent.
Keywords: patent, disclosure, survey, damages
JEL Classification: O31, O34, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation