Quantifying the Cost of Substandard Patents: Some Preliminary Evidence

T. Randolph Beard
George S. Ford
Thomas M. Koutsky
Lawrence J. Spiwak
12 Yale J.L. & Tech. 240

The purpose of patent policy is to balance the incentive to invent against the ability of the economy to utilize and incorporate new inventions and innovations. Substandard patents that upset this balance impose deadweight losses and other costs on the economy. In this paper, we examine some of the deadweight losses that result from granting substandard patents in the United States. Under plausible assumptions, we find that the economic losses resulting from the grant of substandard patents can reach $21 billion per year by deterring valid research with an additional deadweight loss from litigation and administrative costs of $4.5 billion annually. This brings the total deadweight loss created by our “dented” patent system to be at least $25.5 billion annually. These estimates may be viewed as conservative because they do not take into account other economic costs from our existing patent system, such as the consumer welfare losses from granting monopoly rents to patent holders that have not, in the end, invented a novel product, or the full social value of the innovations lost.