Partial Patents

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Michael Mattioli and Gideon Parchomovsky


Columbia Law Review, Vol. 111, No. 2, pp. 208-253, 2011


The authors propose using partial patents to reform the patent system in a way that is both feasible and innovative.

Policy Relevance

Partial patents, both “Semi” and “Quasi,” present a real and feasible method for reforming the patent system. They present an intermediate form of patent protection that could help fix the patent system at low societal cost.

Main Points

  • Most current patent reform proposals focus on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Federal Circuit as being too lenient in approving patents and too lenient in upholding them.
  • The current patent system is an all or nothing approach—offering either full patent protection—or none at all. This is a sub-optimal approach.
  • A “Quasi-Patent” would only allow the patent holder to enforce that patent against direct competitors who utilize the invention without permission.
  • A “Semi-Patent” has the same basic scope as a regular patent; however, the grant of a “Semi-Patent” is conditional based on the applicant’s consent to publish all research results and information about the application.
  • To start with, “Quasi” and “Semi” patents could be introduced in “communities of innovation,” which are private patent sharing communities, to test their effectiveness prior to introduction into the general patent system.
  • The goals of “communities of innovation” could be realized using partial patents in such example areas as the following: genetics, software, environment, and public health.
  • The main challenges to general adoption of this proposal are generating the necessary political goodwill and convincing inventors to prefer “Quasi” and “Semi” patents over traditional patents.
  • The benefits of this reform proposal are that it does not require major reforms, does not take away inventor’s rights, does not require major change to the USPTO, and it does not require significant expenditures.


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