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October 09, 2018
Brattle Economist Publishes Research on Regulatory Capture in Patent Agencies

Brattle Associate Haris Tabakovic has co-authored a paper with Thomas G. Wollmann, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, discussing the conflict of interest and potential for regulatory capture that arises when employees in the public sector are later employed by the private firms they used to monitor and regulate.

Using detailed data from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a lens for examination, the authors evaluate whether patent examiners grant more patents to the firms that later hire them. They conclude that they do, and that these effects are strongest during times that firms are hiring. The authors further note that this behavior leads to the issuance of lower quality patents and ultimately suggests regulatory capture.

The full working paper, “From Revolving Doors to Regulatory Capture? Evidence from Patent Examiners,” has been cited by The Cato Institute, the VOX Portal of the European Center for Economic Policy Research, Marginal Revolution, and is available on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website