More on European patent quality
"Patent offices are under incredible pressure," says Dominique
Guellec, the chief economist at the European Patent Office in Munich. Applications at many patent offices have doubled in the past ten years, and the average length of each submission has increased by 50%. The average quantity of work required to examine an application is three times greater than it was a decade ago.
"Of course that can't be neutral in terms of quality," says Mr Guellec.
As these reforms are debated, the scale and central importance of
the patent system are also coming under assault. "The innovation system is broken in that there is too much emphasis on intellectual-property rights," says Suzanne Scotchmer, the author of "Innovation and Incentives" (MIT Press), a book on the
role of patents to be published soon. More than ever, she says,
inventions that would otherwise go into the public domain because they are funded by taxpayers or charities become "cordoned off" by the patent system. If so, perhaps the patent system not only needs to be repaired, but shrunk?