We greatly appreciate the USPTO’s outreach to the community in its efforts to enhance patent quality. We write in response to the USPTO’s requests for comments on enhancing patent quality.

As academics who research and teach in the area of patents, we commend the USPTO on attempting to improve its patent operations and procedures. We believe that sensitive and effective reforms could pay dividends for users of the patent system, including inventors, assignees, competitors, improvers, and others affected by the system. We support the USPTO’s efforts and want the USPTO to be as successful as possible in its enhanced quality initiative.

We write this comment not to offer specific reform proposals. Instead, we write to encourage the USPTO to conduct and rely upon empirical and data-driven studies to improve its operations and procedures. An objective, data-driven approach permits the rigorous examination of potential changes to operations and procedures. Rather than relying upon the views of dominant stakeholders, an empirical approach could permit the USPTO to assess the success or likely success of various alternative proposals for reforming processes and procedures within the USPTO.

We believe that the data-driven studies can come from a variety of sources including sources inside and outside the USPTO. By releasing more raw patent-related data, the USPTO can facilitate academic research into the patent system. The USPTO’s recent release of patent and trademark assignment data, as well as its forthcoming release of PAIR data, is a step in the right direction. Raw data, especially on a very granular basis, form the basis of numerous potential academic studies. In addition to academic studies, the USPTO can study itself using data-driven methods. No matter who conducts the studies, empirical studies may be able to locate trends in USPTO operations and procedures that are difficult to identify—the proverbial forest from the trees.

Additional empirical work, either from the USPTO or outside, will aid the USPTO. Credible empirical studies will permit the USPTO to evaluate potential positive and negative effects as it considers any internal reform.

Separately, we believe that the USPTO should embrace randomized controlled trials or experiments (RCT), either conducted by the USPTO itself or in coordination with appropriate academics. An RCT is one in which participants are randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. If done properly, after randomization, the differences between the groups should be caused by the treatment they receive. RCTs are considered the “gold standard” in evaluating the effectiveness of a proposed change. In the context of the USPTO, RCT could be utilized to soundly and objectively evaluate changes in patent examination and other proposed changes in USPTO operations and procedures.

In summary, as academics we strongly recommend that the USPTO focus more acutely on data. Through releasing more raw data to the community and analysis internally, the USPTO should use a data-driven approach to evaluating potential improvements in USPTO operations and proceedings.

Respectfully submitted,

David L. Schwartz
Professor of Law
IIT / Chicago-Kent College of Law

Jay P. Kesan
Professor of Law
University of Illinois College of Law

David S. Abrams
Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania Law School

John R. Allison
Professor of Business Administration
University of Texas, McCombs School of Business

Iain M. Cockburn
Professor of Management
Boston University

Christopher A. Cotropia
Professor of Law
University of Richmond Law School

Dennis D. Crouch
Associate Professor of Law
University of Missouri School of Law

Michael D. Frakes
Associate Professor of Law
Northwestern University Law School

Alberto Galasso
Associate Professor of Strategic Management
University of Toronto

Deepak Hegde
Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations
NYU-Stern School of Business

Naomi R. Lamoreaux
Professor of Economics and History
Yale University

Mark A. Lemley
Professor of Law
Stanford Law School

Ronald J. Mann
Professor of Law
Columbia Law School

Michael J. Meurer
Professor of Law
Boston University School of Law

Lee Petherbridge
Professor of Law
Loyola Law School – Los Angeles

Arti K. Rai
Professor of Law
Duke University School of Law

Jason A. Rantanen
Associate Professor of Law
University of Iowa College of Law

Michael Risch
Professor of Law
Villanova University School of Law

Mark Schankerman
Professor of Economics
London School of Economics and Political Science

Christopher B. Seaman
Assistant Professor of Law
Washington & Lee Law School

Ted Sichelman
Professor of Law
University of San Diego School of Law

Matthew L. Spitzer
Professor of Law
Northwestern University Law School

Shine Tu
Associate Professor of Law
West Virginia University College of Law

Melissa F. Wasserman
Associate Professor of Law
University of Illinois College of Law

Brian D. Wright
University of California, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Rosemarie H. Ziedonis
Associate Professor of Management
University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business
Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University