Improving Patent Quality with Applicant Incentives

Stephen Yelderman, Notre Dame Law School


This Article offers an alternative approach to the widely recognized problem of low-quality patents being granted by the patent office. Traditional reforms have focused almost exclusively on making the patent office more effective at examination. This Article instead looks at patent quality from an applicant’s perspective, and evaluates how certain patent rules might be encouraging inventors to file higher or lower quality claims. It proposes a variety of reforms to take advantage of applicants’ existing interests in obtaining patents that are both broad enough to create infringing activity and narrow enough to be valid. The result is a distinctive set of tools that could be used to improve patent quality without additional investment in examination or the involvement of third parties.