Improving Scientific Judgments in Law and Government: A Field Experiment of Patent Peer Review

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 190, 2020

Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 550

47 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2020

Date Written: January 24, 2020

Abstract

Many have advocated for the expansion of peer review to improve scientific judgments in law and public policy. One such test case is the patent examination process, with numerous commentators arguing that scientific peer review can solve informational deficits in patent determinations. We present results from a novel randomized field experiment, carried out over the course of three years, in which 336 prominent scientific experts agreed to provide input on U.S. patent applications. Their input was edited for compliance with submission requirements and submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by our research team. We show that the intervention caused examiners to (i) increase search efforts and citations to the non-patent (scientific) literature and (ii) grant the application at lower rates in the first instance. However, results were substantially weaker and resource costs substantially higher than anticipated in the literature, highlighting significant challenges and questions of institutional design in bringing scientific expertise into law and government.

Keywords: Patent, Peer Review, Field Experiment, Scientific Expertise, Prior Art, Pre-Issuance Submissions, Uspto

JEL Classification: C93, D73, D82, H11, H41, H83, K23, K39, L50, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Ho, Daniel E. and Ouellette, Lisa Larrimore, Improving Scientific Judgments in Law and Government: A Field Experiment of Patent Peer Review (January 24, 2020). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 190, 2020, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 550, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3548921

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-9560 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://dho.stanford.edu

Lisa Larrimore Ouellette (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.stanford.edu/directory/lisa-larrimore-ouellette/

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