Essays on patent examination and standard essential patents
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This dissertation contains three studies on the patenting process and standard essential patents. The first study analyzes the matching of patent applications to examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The analysis uses statistical tests originally developed to study industry agglomeration and finds strong evidence that examiners specialize in particular technologies. Specialization is more pronounced in the biotechnology and chemistry fields, and less in computers and software. Evidence of specialization becomes weaker conditioning on technology subclasses. There is no evidence that certain examiners specialize in applications that have greater importance or broader claims. Finally, the study shows that more specialized examiners have a lower grant rate and produce a larger narrowing of claim-scope during examination. The results have implications for the growing literature that exploits examiners characteristics to study the effects of patenting. In the second study, I analyze the strategic behavior of applicants for Standard Essential Patents. Owners of these patents (and especially those that rely more on patents to generate revenues) use the mechanisms provided by the patent system to delay issuance more often than owners of similar patents. The analysis also shows that applicants for Standard Essential Patents may delay issuance to obtain the right balance between patent breadth and strength, and that companies prolong prosecution until the standard is set, possibly to cover the standard with additional claims. Finally, I find a positive correlation between the issuance lag and the probability of patent litigation. This suggests that owners of Standard Essential Patents may delay issuance to obtain patents that are more valuable, or that longer lags are associated with failures in licensing negotiations. The third study exploits Standard Essential Patents as a window on standardization and analyzes the direction of technical progress that builds upon compatibility standards. It uses patent citations to characterize the dispersion of cumulative inventive activity across technological areas. The overall pattern of results suggests that Standard Setting Organizations select technologies that are important in a relatively narrow technological area, and their adoption as input for following inventive activity broadens after standardization.