The Search of Prior Art and the Revelation
of Information by Patent Applicants
Published online: 6 April 2016
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract To learn the patentability of an innovation, both applicant and examiner
search through the set of related inventions. The applicant searches ﬁrst and chooses to
reveal his ﬁndings to the examiner, who performs a complementary search and decides
whether to grant a patent. We analyze this process with a model of bilateral search for
information. We show that the applicant may strategically conceal information, and the
examiner makes her search contingent upon the revealed information. To remedy
information concealment, we focus on two mechanisms: a double-review policy and a
commitment mechanism. Both mechanisms induce more revelation of information.
Keywords Incentives Information Patents Prior art
The issuance of patents of questionable validity is a major concern for patent policy.
In an effort to improve the quality of the patent prosecution process, the U.S. Patent
and Trademark Ofﬁce (PTO) has launched several initiatives.
To contribute to this
& Corinne Langinier
Department of Economics, University of Alberta, 8-14 Tory Building, Edmonton,
AB T6G 2H4, Canada
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, 503
General Services Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, Canada
The patent prosecution describes the interaction between a patent applicant (or his representatives) and
the PTO during the patent application process. Examples of initiatives for reforming the U.S. patenting
process can be found in The Patent Reform Act of 2011 or the USPTO website.
Rev Ind Organ (2016) 49:399–427