Does the Political Ideology of Patent Examiners Matter? An Empirical Investigation
31 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 4, 2020
This study draws attention to the importance of exploring the relationship between the political ideology of patent examiners and their propensity to grant patents. To do so, we construct and analyze a database which pairs political ideology estimates derived from campaign contributions with individual patent examiners and their patent granting behavior. Our empirical analysis suggests that software patent applications assigned to liberal-leaning examiners are 39 percent less likely to be granted when compared to applications assigned to conservative-leaning examiners. We also explore changes in claim length, time to patent issuance, and the number of internal appeals, finding evidence suggesting that the observed differences in patent granting behavior are likely a result of liberal-leaning examiners being more stringent, rather than conservative-leaning examiners being more lenient. However, given the relatively small number of donating patent examiners, we stress that our study should not be viewed as providing a definitive answer on the role of political ideology in the issuance of patents. Rather, we prefer to interpret our results as evidence that we cannot robustly reject the possibility that the political ideology of patent examiners influences patent granting behavior. Overall, our study suggests more research on this topic is needed and underscores the need for broader data collection efforts, an expensive endeavor, which we argue is warranted given the central role of the patenting institution in the economy.
Keywords: Innovation, Patents, Political Ideology, Patent Examiners, Intellectual Property Rights
JEL Classification: O30, O31, O34, O51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation