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Patent backlogs and Intellectual Property rights bundles

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: IP research, Patents

Today (20 May 2013) is the IPO sponsored 'Patent Research Workshop'. The event hosted by Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) will showcase three soon-to-be published reports from the IPO's Economic Research and Evidence team. They include a joint report investigating patent backlogs, written with our colleagues at the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO), and two reports analysing how different intellectual property rights work together (bundles).

Three years ago the USPTO and IPO launched a report, 'Patent Backlogs and Mutual Recognition' by London Economics on the economic cost of patent applications waiting processing (backlogs). The cost of backlogs was estimated as the negative effect of delayed patents which stop the funding of innovations.

The result assumes that a delayed patent means no innovation. We know that quite a bit of innovation happens without patents - although it has been shown (by Hall, Helmers, Rogers and Sena; 'The use of alternatives to patents and limits to incentives') that patent-backed innovations tend to deliver proportionately more growth and jobs.

To build on the earlier research, we need to look at the chilling effect on other innovators of patents pending in the applications process. These patents could be granted in the future and deter the innovations of others. Long pendency, the time taken for a patent to move through each part of the application process, creates uncertainty in technology markets and undermines the ability of firms to compete. The latest European Patent Office (EPO) report on patent thickets points to pending patents as a reason for uncertainty, which can block competitive entry.

The work we've developed with USPTO is designed to help us understand how patent pendency works - inside our offices and where applications are 'with applicants'. It's based on the principle that if you want to manage something you need to measure it. So we've developed a measurement approach for pending patents which works for both offices. We've then looked at how the stock of pending applications affects the speed with which new applications go through the different processes. If patent offices can manage these processes more effectively, it should reduce uncertainty and make markets work better.

Today's event looks at these issues. What do you think of the issue of patent backlogs? A read out from the event will be available shortly via this blog.

The second part of the workshop reviews a new piece of research looking at how bundles of IP rights are used by firms. A bundle is the combined use of IP rights, for example, an innovation with a patent may also need a trade mark. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is analysing this internationally - recognising that patents are not the only registered rights that indicate innovation. New firms, products and services need their names and reputations protected too, both in the market and in court.

The work so far can only cover owners of registered rights. We're working with the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) to build data on licensing which is also important. The innovation survey also tells us something - but not enough - about unregistered rights. So this is a bit like cosmology, trying to make sense of the universe while recognising that there are large areas of 'dark matter', in the form of unregistered rights that we can't see directly. But that should not stop us trying to make sense of the data we can see.

We will post blogs announcing the publication of both these reports in the next few weeks and very much welcome your comments and posts on these important pieces of research.

If you have questions or feedback, do comment on this blogpost and we'll do our best to respond.

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  1. Comment by Norman posted on

    You might want to fix the link to the "The latest European Patent Office (EPO) report on patent thickets," which links to the programme, not the report.

  2. Comment by Nathan Wajsman posted on

    Great event, even for a trademark guy like me the paper on patent backlogs was very interesting (I look forward to seeing the equations in detail! :-)), and the session on IP bundles was fascinating. Always a pleasure to participate in IPO events.

  3. Comment by Peter posted on

    Edited May 21st to correct a typo.