Conflict Resolution, Public Goods and Patent Thickets 

Prof. Dr. Georg von Graevenitz, Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia

Litigation and post-grant validity challenges at patent offices provide an important mechanism for correcting erroneous patent grants. However, such challenges will only be initiated if the (expected) private gains from challenging a granted patent right exceed the respective costs. Two important aspects may influence the likelihood of challenges. First, there is a public goods problem: firms may refrain from challenges if they anticipate that others will also benefit from the revocation of a weak patent. Second, as more firms are caught up in patent thickets, challenges to weak patents will become too costly as they invite counter-challenges. We use data on opposition proceedings initiated against patents granted at the European Patent Office (EPO) to study the importance of these mechanisms. This paper identifies a significant increase in the incidence of opposition in technical fields characterized by high concentration of patent ownership. Additionally, in fields with a large number of mutually blocking patents, the incidence of opposition is sharply reduced, particularly amongst those firms that are caught up in and driving the growth of patent thickets. Thus, while post-grant reviews may help to resolve problems in some areas, they are less suited to deal with patent thickets and contexts with dispersed patent ownership. We discuss the implications of these results for efforts to deal with patent thickets and weak patents.

About the speaker
Georg von Graevenitz holds a PhD in economics from the University of London. Since January 2012 he is a Senior Lecturer in Innovation Management at Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia in London. His research focus is on intellectual property rights, innovation and entrepreneurship. Dr. Von Graevenitz have held academic posts previously at University College London (2002-2003), the Technical University of Munich (2003-2004), and Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (2004-2012). Next to his research he had provided advisory to competition, regulatory authorities and international organizations including European Commission, WIPO, UKIPO. His publications include papers in leading academic journals on licensing in the semiconductor industry, measurement of patent thickets and entrepreneurship education.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 10 May 2012

Time: 12:30 - 13:30  CET