RC Passage: Patents and Semiconductors

  
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 The system of patent-granting, which confers temporary monopolies for the exploitation of new technologies, was originally established as an incentive to the pursuit of risky new ideas. Yet studies of the most patent-conscious business of all—the semiconductor industry—suggest that firms do not necessarily become more innovative as they increase their patenting activity. Ziedonis and Hall, for example, found that investment in research and development (a reasonable proxy for innovation) did not substantially increase between 1982 and 1992, the industry’s most feverish period of patenting. Instead, semiconductor firms simply squeezed more patents out of existing research and development expenditures. Moreover, Ziedonis and Hall found that as patenting activity at semiconductor firms increased in the 1980’s, the consensus among industry employees was that the average quality of their firms’ patents declined. Though patent quality is a difficult notion to measure, the number of times a patent is cited in the technical literature is a reasonable yardstick, and citations per semiconductor patent did decline during the 1980’s. This decline in quality may be related to changes in the way semiconductor firms managed their patenting process: rather than patenting to win exclusive rights to a valuable new technology, patents were filed more for strategic purposes, to be used as bargaining chips to ward off infringement suits or as a means to block competitors’ products.

Which of the following, if true, would most clearly serve to weaken the author's claim about what constitutes a reasonable yardstick for measuring patent quality?
(A)
It is more difficult to have an article accepted for publication in the technical literature of the semiconductor industry than it is in the technical literature of most other industries
(B)
Many of the highest-quality semiconductor patents are cited numerous times in the technical literature
(C)
It is difficult for someone not familiar with the technical literature to recognize what constitutes an innovative semiconductor patent
(D)
There were more citations made per semiconductor patent in the technical literature in the 1970's than in the 1980's
(E)
Low-quality patents tend to be discussed in the technical literature as frequently as high-quality patents.
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