Examiner trust in applicants to the European Patent Office: country specificities

Joaquín M. Azagra-Caro, Elena M. Tur

Indicators based on the probability of applicant citations in patents have been used to emphasize the importance of distinguishing applicant and examiner citations. However, the interpretation of these indicators and of the presence of applicant citations in European Patent Office (EPO) examiner reports is still uncertain. Based on interviews with patent examiners and patent applicants, we develop the idea that applicant citations in EPO examiner reports indicate examiner trust in applicants, and that this trust varies according to national patterns. Using EPO data for over 3,500,000 citations during 1997–2007, we verify that examiner trust in applicants is higher in granted patents. Examiners trust applicants from scientifically or economically strong countries, from member states of the European Patent Organization, and from the same country of the examiners.