The Federal Circuit Enriched Patent Owners Without Eliciting Better Inventions


How do changes in patent law affect the exchange by which society awards an exclusive right of limited duration and the inventor discloses technology that others may freely use after the period of exclusivity? Between 1983-1985, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit shifted the law in favor of patent owners, to degrees varying geographically by judicial circuit. We find that the Federal Circuit was associated with an increase in the commercial value of patents by 11.7 percent, but no significant increase in the technological quality of the patented inventions followed. Apparently, the value of the patent monopoly increased substantially without a commensurate increase in inventors’ contributions of knowledge to society.