Patent thickets - a phenomenon of increasing complexity

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27 September 2012

patentthicketsphoto (JPG)The EPO's Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB) brought together some 40 international patent experts yesterday in Leuven, Belgium for a workshop dedicated to patent thickets. This was the third meeting of this expert group, following two sessions earlier this year on patent quality, and pricing and patent fees. The aim of the workshop was to improve understanding of patent thickets and to look at the phenomenon from the perspective of different industries, as well as to draw up recommendations for best practice and make suggestions for further research.
 

There was a lively discussion among the economists, lawyers, judges, patent professionals and industry representatives present as to whether patent thickets are a problem per se. With the explosion of patenting activity in the past few decades as well as increasing technological complexity, patent thickets might be considered to be one manifestation (or symptom) of this changing environment. Patent thickets appear to be part of a broader discussion related to the management of innovation and technological complexity.

The expert group discussed solutions that could help users of the patent system overcome these challenges, and looked at how the system could be amended in order to reduce unnecessary complexity. Proposals focused on regulatory measures to improve patent quality, the speed of examination procedures and pricing aspects. Market-based solutions such as patent pools, cross-licensing and work processes in standard-setting bodies were also discussed.

A detailed report on the workshop will be published soon on the webpage of the Economic and Scientific Advisory Board, where reports of the previous two workshops in this series are already available.

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