Melissa F. Wasserman

University of Texas
College of Law
727 E Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of Texas

NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2017Knowledge Spillovers and Learning in the Workplace: Evidence from the U.S. Patent Office
with Michael D. Frakes: w24159
Using application-level data from the Patent Office from 2001 to 2012, merged with personnel data on patent examiners, we explore the extent to which the key decision of examiners—whether to allow a patent—is shaped by the granting styles of her surrounding peers. Taking a number of methodological approaches to dealing with the common obstacles facing peer-effects investigations, we document strong evidence of peer influence. For instance, in the face of a one standard-deviation increase in the grant rate of her peer group, an examiner in her first two years at the Patent Office will experience a 0.15 standard-deviation increase in her own grant rate. Moreover, we document a number of markers suggesting that such influences arise, at least in part, through knowledge spillovers among exa...
December 2016Procrastination in the Workplace: Evidence from the U.S. Patent Office
with Michael D. Frakes: w22987
Despite much theoretical attention to the concept of procrastination and much exploration of this phenomenon in laboratory settings, there remain few empirical investigations into the practice of procrastination in real world contexts, especially in the workplace. In this paper, we attempt to fill these gaps by exploring procrastination among U.S. patent examiners. We find that nearly half of examiners’ first substantive reports are completed immediately prior to the operable deadlines. Moreover, we find a range of additional empirical markers to support that this “end-loading” of reviews results from a model of procrastination rather than various alternative time-consistent models of behavior. In one such approach, we take advantage of the natural experiment afforded by the Patent Office’...
July 2014Is the Time Allocated to Review Patent Applications Inducing Examiners to Grant Invalid Patents?: Evidence from Micro-Level Application Data
with Michael D. Frakes: w20337
We explore how examiner behavior is altered by the time allocated for reviewing patent applications. Insufficient examination time may hamper examiner search and rejection efforts, leaving examiners more inclined to grant invalid applications. To test this prediction, we use application-level data to trace the behavior of individual examiners over the course of a series of promotions that carry with them reductions in examination-time allocations. We find evidence demonstrating that such promotions are associated with reductions in examination scrutiny and increases in granting tendencies, as well as evidence that those additional patents being issued on the margin are of below-average quality.

Published: Michael D. Frakes & Melissa F. Wasserman, 2017. "Is the Time Allocated to Review Patent Applications Inducing Examiners to Grant Invalid Patents? Evidence from Microlevel Application Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol 99(3), pages 550-563.

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