Financial Patenting in Europe

Bronwyn H. Hall, Grid Thoma, Salvatore Torrisi

NBER Working Paper No. 14714
Issued in February 2009
NBER Program(s):   IO   PR

We take a first look at financial patents at the European Patent Office (EPO). As is the case at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the number of financial patents in Europe has increased significantly in parallel with significant changes in payment and financial systems. Scholars have argued that financial patents, like other business methods patents, have low value and are owned for strategic reasons rather than for protecting real inventions. We find that established firms in non-financial sectors with diversified patent portfolios own a large share of financial patents at the EPO. However, new specialized technology providers in the financial area also hold a number of such patents. Decisions on the financial patent applications take longer and they are more likely to be refused by the patent office, suggesting greater uncertainty over validity than for other patents. They are also more likely to be opposed, which is consistent with the fact that their other economic value indicators are higher.

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This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14714

Published: Hall, B. H., Thoma, G. and Torrisi, S. (2009), Financial patenting in Europe. European Management Review, 6: 45–63. doi: 10.1057/emr.2009.3

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