A recent stream of the academic literature suggests that there might be discrimination against foreigners in the patent system. Firms of foreign origin may be treated unfavorably compared to local firms when filing for patent protection. Estimates suggest that foreign firms might be as much as ten percentage points less likely to have their patents granted than locals. This article takes stock of the literature. It explains what we know — and don’t know yet — about the issue. It targets intellectual property (IP) professionals, policymakers, graduate students, and anyone with a keen interest in IP, innovation, or technology protectionism.

The national treatment principle

Using the patent system to discriminate against foreigners is as old as the patent system itself. The Patent Act of 1836 set application fees of $30 for U.S. applicants, $500 for any “subject of the King of Great Britain,” and $300 for all other persons. …


Gaétan de Rassenfosse

I am a Professor of Innovation Policy at Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.

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