Chart of the Day: 2001 Was a Great Year For Patents

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Tim Lee has an interesting piece at Ars Technica today about a new (?) study that attempts to figure out how rigorous the patent office is at approving patents. Long story short, the authors take the uncorrected approval rate, and then adjust it for various factors to get a true idea of just how many patent applications are approved. The headline result is that the patent office got steadily more selective during the Bush administration, and then suddenly reversed course in 2009 and started approving way more applications.

But something else caught my eye. The basic chart is on the right. The bottom line is the raw uncorrected approval rate. The lines above it each correct for a different factor until finally you reach the purple line at the top, which tells us the real rate of patent approvals. If this line is correct, the Patent Office approved about 99.5 percent of all patent applications in 2001.

So, um, what’s the deal with that? Can it really be true that virtually every single patent application that year eventually got approved?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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