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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Mendola, Mariapia / Requate, Till / Schirle, Tammy / de Vries, Frans / Zulehner, Christine

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Time In Purgatory: Examining the Grant Lag for U.S. Patent Applications

David Popp1 / Ted Juhl2 / Daniel K.N. Johnson3

1Syracuse University,

2University of Kansas,

3Colorado College,

Citation Information: Topics in Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 4, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1538-0653, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1538-0653.1329, November 2004

Publication History

Published Online:


As patent applications increase, and the range of patentable technologies increases, the length of time it takes for an invention to go through the examination process at the U.S. Patent Office has increased. Concerns over the distributional effects of these changes have been expressed during policy debates. We use data on U.S. patent applications and grants to ask who is affected by longer grant lags. We augment this analysis with interviews of patent examiners, leading to a better understanding of the examination process. Our analysis finds that differences across technology are most important. These differences do not erode over time, suggesting that learning effects alone will not reduce grant lags. Inventor characteristics have statistically significant effects, but the magnitudes are small.

Keywords: patents; examinations; grant lags; USPTO

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