The Unintended Consequences of Crowd-Sourced Patent Examination
43 Pages Posted: 24 May 2017 Last revised: 2 Mar 2018
Date Written: February 2018
There have been repeated calls for improving the quality of patent examination, and reducing backlogs, at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. One program aimed to address this, piloted between 2007 and 2009, sought to crowd-source information for patent examiners to help them examine emerging technology patents. Since then, calls have been made to re-instate, expand or globalize this program, but there has not been a systematic study of the causal links between program participation and the final outcome of the patent applications. By comparing the participating applications to a control group, we show that the program marginally reduced the incidence of patent allowance but not because of the crowd-sourced input. Rather the program led applicants to file more requests for continued examination, which resulted in a doubling of the examiner's search effort. Hence, both participating applicants and the office incurred higher cost and longer delays at no additional benefit.
Keywords: Patent Examination, Patent Office, Open Government, Crowdsourcing
JEL Classification: H83, L17, O34, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation