Demographics and Disclosure: Studies on the U.S. Patenting Process and Innovation
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
- Chair: Andrew A. Toole, United States Patent and Trademark Office
Increasing the Representation of Women in the Patent System: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial
AbstractWomen are underrepresented as inventors on U.S. patents (Toole et al. 2019, Toole et al. 2020). Although the gender gap is closing over time, it is not closing quickly. This suggests that there is a role for policy to help reduce invention and commercialization barriers for women. However, the potential effectiveness of policies to address this issue are unclear, primarily because the underlying causes of the gender gap are complex and not well understood.
Recent research has begun to cast light on this issue (Whittington 2005; Ding et al. 2006; Murray and Graham 2007; Colyvas et al. 2012; Hunt et al. 2013; Meng 2018). There is some evidence that women are less successful during patent prosecution at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), all else equal (including the quality of the patent application). Aneja et al. (2021) find that women are much more likely to abandon patent applications after a first rejection at the USPTO than men. Further, this effect is greater for women applicants that do not have institutional support. This result suggests that women could disproportionately benefit from increased assistance at the USPTO, and that programs emphasizing assistance could increase the representation of women in the patent system.
In response to the America Invents Act and following presidential executive order, the USPTO established the Pro Se Pilot program in 2014 to better assist inventors that file patent applications without legal representation. The program consisted of a specialized group of 15 patent examiners (called an art unit) and patent applications were randomly assigned to the treatment (the Pilot art unit) and the control (regular patent examination). Our paper uses the Pro Se Pilot randomized control trial to explore whether increased patenting assistance is an effective mechanism to help close the gender patenting gap.
Visibility of Technology and Cumulative Innovation: Evidence from Trade Secrets Laws
AbstractInnovative activity depends on the incentives to create new ideas as well as the visibility of and access to existing ones. We show that a relative strengthening of trade secrets protection has a disproportionately negative effect on patenting of processes – inventions that are not otherwise visible to society. We develop a structural model of initial and follow-on innovation to determine the welfare effects of such shifts in disclosure for industries characterized by cumulative innovation. While stronger trade secrets encourage investment in initial R&D, they may have negative effects on overall welfare by reducing opportunities for follow-on innovation.
Patenting Inventions or Inventing Patents? Strategic Use of Continuations at the USPTO
AbstractContinuations allow inventors to claim technology developed after the original filing date of a patent, leading to concerns about inadvertent infringement and hold-up. For researchers seeking to study this practice, a key challenge is the difficulty of linking patent applications to potentially infringing technology. We use the link created by disclosure of standard essential patents (SEPs) to analyze the relationship between standard publication -- a key observable milestone in technology development -- and continuation filing. More than half of the SEPs in our data are filed after standard publication. There is a substantial increase in continuation filings immediately after standard publication, and this increase is larger when the initial patent examiner is more lenient. We also find that claims in SEP continuations are more likely to be rejected for double patenting (indicating an effort to change the scope of previous patents), and that keywords in the claims of SEPs linked to the same standard become more similar after standard publication. Overall, these findings suggest widespread use of continuation procedures to opportunistically "invent patents'' that are infringed by already-published standards.
- O3 - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights