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Michael D. Frakes and Melissa F. Wasserman

While there is a substantial literature in law and economics bearing on the patent system, the administrative process by which patent rights are initially established has received scant attention. In the past decade, a growing but nascent literature has emerged that has begun to shed empirical light on the patent examination process. This chapter will provide a brief overview of this literature, focusing only on studies that carry significant empirical components and only on studies of the U.S. patent system. The need for sound empirical guidance on the administrative process of obtaining a patent is substantial. Without sufficient empirical evidence as to which features of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shape the Agency’s decision making, policymakers are left trying to reform the patent system without understanding the root cause of the system’s pathologies