Fixing the Patent Office
How can we allow patent examiners to effectively distinguish between patentable and unpatentable inventions, without slowing the process to a crawl or wasting a bunch of money? This essay reviews the recent literature and considers a number of proposals and their limitations. It concludes that the system can be improved, but that we are unlikely to solve the problem of bad patents altogether. The focus in reform discussions should be on understanding and changing applicant and examiner incentives rather than simply spending money.
Thanks to Jonas Anderson, Colleen Chien, Peter Detkin, Rose Hagan, Naomi Hausman, Josh Lerner, Scott Stern, Stu Soffer and participants in workshops at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Marquette Law School and the J. Reuben Clark Legal Society for comments. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.