Patent oﬃces around the world face massive backlogs of applications, which threatens to slow down the pace of technological progress. However, economists lack analytical tools to address the issue. This paper provides a model of patent backlog inspired from the traﬃc congestion literature.
Inventors in the cohort are heterogeneous with respect to desired patent pendency duration and react in anticipation of the waiting time resulting from the backlog. They can accelerate or slow down pendency duration by adapting their ﬁling strategy. We ﬁnd that the backlog impedes patent examination progress by providing incentives to strategically manipulate pendency.
We discuss three policy responses: increasing examination capacity; introducing a penalty fee; and altering the value of pending applications.