What To Do About Bad Patents

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Mark Lemley, Doug Lichtman and Bhaven N. Sampat


Regulation, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 10-13, January 2006


This paper supports three changes to the patent system.

Policy Relevance

Making trivial patents easy to enforce means too many patents clog the system.

Main Points

  • Many patents are filed and forgotten; a few have economic significance. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) give all the same cursory review.

  • Three changes would encourage patent applicants and competitors to reveal more about the patent’s likely significance:
    • Weaken the presumption of patent validity, so it must be earned.
    •  Applicants should be able to pay more for a stronger presumption and a more thorough examination, to ensure protection for legitimate inventors.
    •  Establish a post-grant opposition system to allow competitors to fund and request a more thorough examination.

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