Discrimination in the Patent System: Evidence from Standard-Essential Patents

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This paper tests for discrimination against foreigners in the patent system. It focuses on patent applications filed in China for which the owner publicly discloses that the patents are or may become essential to the implementation of a technical standard. Such standard-essential patents are of particularly high importance to the owner. We use the timing of disclosure to a leading standard-setting organization as a source of econometric identification and carry out extensive tests to ensure the exogeneity of timing. We find that foreign patent applications are significantly less likely to be granted by the Chinese patent office if their owners disclose them to be essential to a standard before the substantive examination starts. Furthermore, the patent office spends, on average, 1 more year on the examination of such patents, and the scope of the patents is more extensively reduced. Our findings contribute to the emerging discussion on technology protectionism.

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