Patent Oppositions

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Jonathan Levin and Richard Levin


Economics for an Imperfect World: Essays in Honor of Joseph Stiglitz, ed. R. Arnott, G. Greenwald, R. Kanbur, and B. Nalebuff, MIT Press, 2004


This article asks whether adding a process for objecting to the grant of a patent would benefit the United States.

Policy Relevance

Allowing patent oppositions in the United States would have broad benefits.

Main Points

  • In the past two decades, the number of patents reviewed by the patent office has tripled, while patent protection has been expanded to cover genetics, software, and business methods.

  • Many worry that the patent office lacks expertise and resources to do a good job of screening these patents, and is granting weak or invalid patents. This can harm competition.

  • In the United States, there are few chances to object to a patent’s being granted early in the process. In Europe, “patent opposition” proceedings give outsiders a chance to object. The proceedings cost participants less than $100,000 and take about three years.

  • Allowing patent oppositions in the United States means that sometimes these proceedings would save money on litigation later, but sometimes they would be used as a substitute for licensing, which would be harmful.

  • The benefits of using oppositions would probably exceed the costs.  Benefits would include reducing the costs of litigation, educating patent examiners in new technologies, and preserving competition.

Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article