Ignoring Information Quality

47 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2021

See all articles by Janet Freilich

Janet Freilich

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: November 28, 2020


Entry into the patent system is guarded by an examination process to screen out applications that impose undue costs on the public without commensurate benefit. To do this, patent examiners rely heavily on various pieces of information—both provided by the patent applicant and independently discovered by the examiner—to assess whether an application should be granted. This Article shows that there are few mechanisms at the Patent Office to question the veracity of this information, even though it may be incorrect. Rather, patent examination often assumes that existence of information equals accuracy of information. Consequently, examiners may rely on information that is wrong and many decisions about patent grant may also be wrong.

While it is well known that patent examiners make frequent errors, the existing scholarship is almost entirely about what this Article terms “matching” errors (where examiners do not find information that actually exists) whereas “digging” errors (where examiners find information but the information is wrong) may in fact be more common. Digging errors have serious harms: nuisance suits, decreased incentives for research, and slowed technological development. The matching-digging framework introduced by this Article not only reveals new errors, it also makes the case that existing policy tools to address examination errors will not prevent or resolve these errors. Existing policy tools require that errors be visible to the public, which is true for matching errors but is not true for digging errors. Solutions to digging errors should therefore be information-forcing to remedy this asymmetry; and this Article includes several recommendations. Further, this Article uses the matching-digging framework to reconceptualize examination as a system of quasi-registration that defers many decisions about patentability to litigation. Patents should thus not be given a presumption of validity and doctrines of patentability as applied in litigation should not mimic their prosecution counterparts.

Keywords: patents, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Freilich, Janet, Ignoring Information Quality (November 28, 2020). Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3739123

Janet Freilich (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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