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This Article investigates the relationship between the exclusive rights of patents, their information disclosures, and the impact they have on the development of future technologies. An examination of over 1000 patents that courts have held valid or invalid reveals a significant positive relationship. Specifically, the private rights and technological impact of patents rise and fall together, and moreover, both are related to the quantity of new and useful technical information contained in their disclosures.

This Article identifies, for the first time, significant differences between the technological impact of valid patents and invalid patents, as measured by the future patented inventions that relate to the original patent. Additionally, significant differences are also observed based on the reason for a patent’s invalidity, with failure to disclose novel technical information corresponding to the weakest future impact. These differences are traced back to quantifiable variations in the information content of valid patents relative to patents invalidated for lack of novelty, obviousness, or indefiniteness. Finally, the analysis completes the circuit by linking the breadth of a patent’s exclusive claims, when validly supported by its disclosure, to the impact that patent has on future technological progress. Taken together, this study finds that the greater the information content of a patent’s disclosure, the higher the probability it will be held valid, and in turn, the larger its expected positive impact on the development of future technologies.

This study contributes to patent and cumulative innovation scholarship by investigating how the information disclosure of patents relates both to the private value of their exclusive rights and to the technological progress they promote. Furthermore, this study uncovers significant differences between valid and invalid patents. Moreover, unique metrics are offered for directly analyzing the information content of any patent, providing tools for future research.