Continuing Patent Applications and Performance of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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TIIP Newsletter


patent law, Patent and Trademark Office


Among the arguments in favor of a patent system is the claim that the benefits of a patent monopoly outweigh its intrusion upon the free market. But this intrusion is only really beneficial if the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) subjects each application to rigorous scrutiny. A rough measure of that rigor can be derived by comparing the number applications filed to the number of patents granted. The patent office figures claim that between 60 and 70 percent of patent applications result in patent grants, which suggests that the examination procedure is indeed rigorous. Quillen and Webster observe that these data are misleading, because they do not account for continuing applications—essentially, resubmitted versions of earlier applications, a feature unique to the U.S. system. The authors correct the figures and conclude that virtually all patent applications are successful in the end, and that the examination process lacks any real rigor.



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