Document Type


Publication Date



patents, patent law, administrative law, examination priority, grant, bias, budget, PTO, patent and trademark office


In an attempt to shed light on the impact of user-fee financing structures on the behavior of administrative agencies, we explore the relationship between the funding structure of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and its examination practices. We suggest that the PTO’s reliance on prior grantees to subsidize current applicants exposes the Agency to a risk that its obligatory costs will surpass incoming fee collections. When such risks materialize, we hypothesize, and thereafter document, that the PTO will restore financial balance by extending preferential examination treatment—i.e., higher granting propensities and/or shorter wait times—to some technologies over others.


Author pre-print draft.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Patent laws and legislation, Patents--Economic aspects, User charges, Patent and Trademark Office