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Patent Conflicts

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Patent policy is typically thought to be the product of the Patent and Trademark Office, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and, in some instances, the Supreme Court. This simple topography, however, understates the extent to which outsiders can shape the patent regime. Indeed, a variety of administrative actors influence patent policy through the exercise of their regulatory authority and administrative power. This Article offers a novel description of the ways in which nonpatent agencies intervene into patent policy. In particular, it examines agency responses to conflicts between patent and other regulatory aims, uncovering a relative preference for complacency ("inaction") and resort to outside help ("indirect action") over regulation ("direct action"). This dynamic has the striking effect of shifting authority from nonpatent agencies to patent policymakers, thereby supplanting some regulatory designs with the patent regime's more general incentives. This Article thus offers agencies new options for facing patent conflict, including an oft-overlooked theory of regulatory authority for patent-related regulation. Such intervention and regulation by nonpatent agencies can give rise to a more efficient and context-sensitive regime that is better aligned with other regulatory goals.

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