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Report

Reforming the Patent System

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The Problem

A faster pace of technological innovation is likely necessary for achieving robust productivity growth. Considering the slowdown in productivity growth since the early 2000s, it is important for policymakers to improve the incentive structures for technological innovation via reforms to the U.S. patent system.

The Proposal

Lisa Larrimore Ouellette and Heidi Williams of Stanford University propose three policy reforms that would improve the efficiency and transparency of the U.S. patent system:

  • Require U.S. patent applications to distinguish hypothetical experimental results (i.e., prophetic examples) from conducted analyses.
  • Mandate more transparent and standardized disclosure of patent ownership.
  • Increase uniformity in effective patent terms across inventions.

Heidi Williams is co-editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, published by the American Economic Association, and received funding for this research from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Toulouse Network for Information Technology, the US National Institutes of Health, and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Lisa Larrimore Ouellette is an Associate Professor at Stanford Law School.

Heidi Williams

Charles R. Schwab Professor of Economics - Stanford University

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