Robert Merges


Patent policy has been dominated lately by efforts to reduce rent-seeking patent troll litigation. As recent reforms begin to take effect, it is timely to consider the more constructive aspects of patent litigation. This Article contends that the lag between product development and patent litigation, which pushes the problem of patent valuation into the ex post (after product development) period, serves just such a positive function. Re-search, development, and product roll-out can all take place first. Then, at a later stage, patent litigation sorts out the relative merits and contributions of the various inventors and competitors who contributed to the new product or technology. In the time between early commercialization and litigation, a good deal of helpful information comes to light about the product and its market. This makes valuation more tractable, especially as compared with the early (ex ante) development period, when uncertainty is high. Litigation also serves as a structured process that promotes party settlement, adding another dimension to its potentially positive role.