Journal of Economic PerspectivesâVolume 19, Number 2âSpring 2005âPages 75â98 or many years, economists typically conceptualized patents as well-deï¬ned property rights giving their owners either a monopoly over some market or at least a signiï¬cant competitive advantage in that market due to control over a product improvement or a low-cost method of production (Nordhaus, 1969; Reinganum, 1989). Once a patent was issued, this approach tended to assume that the patent was valid, that it granted a right of deï¬nite scope, and that users of the patented technology respected that right or were forced by courts to do so. Treating patents as well-deï¬ned rights to exclude rivals has permitted economists to focus on important and complex relationships among patents, innovation, competition and the diffusion of technology. More recently, however, scholars and policymakers have begun to look more closely at the empirical evidence regarding the issuance of patents and patent litigation. Nearly 200,000 patents are issued every year after a very limited examination process. Most issued patents turn out to have little or no commercial signiï¬cance, which is one reason that only 1.5 percent of patents are ever litigated, and only 0.1 percent of patents are ever litigated to trial. Given
Journal of Economic Perspectives – American Economic Association
Published: May 1, 2005
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