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The decision to patent, cumulative innovation, and optimal policy

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  • Erkal, Nisvan

Abstract

Optimal patent breadth is an issue that is still being vigorously debated at both the theoretical and empirical levels. This paper analyzes optimal patent policy in the context of cumulative innovation in a model that endogenizes the patenting decisions of early innovators. In the theoretical literature on cumulative innovation, it is generally assumed that all innovations are patented. However, studies such as Cohen et al. (2000) and Levin et al. (1987) report that firms frequently rely on secrecy to protect their discoveries. Cumulative innovation implies that innovators may have significant incentives to keep their innovations secret to get a head start in subsequent R&D races. This paper shows that if innovators cannot rely on secrecy to protect their innovations, it is optimal to have relatively narrow patent protection. This happens if the government has a weak trade secret policy or if innovators cannot monitor the flow of their technological information. This is because when innovators cannot rely on secrecy to protect their innovations, they have increased incentives to patent them and it is not necessary for the government to give them extra incentives to patent. In the case when innovators always prefer secrecy over patenting, it becomes optimal to have a flexible antitrust policy rather than a flexible patent policy. Since non-disclosure reduces the investment incentives in the second R&D race, allowing collusive licensing agreements between competing innovators becomes optimal in order to stimulate investment in the second R&D race.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 23 (2005)
Issue (Month): 7-8 (September)
Pages: 535-562

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Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:23:y:2005:i:7-8:p:535-562

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

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References

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  1. Horstmann, Ignatius & MacDonald, Glenn M & Slivinski, Alan, 1985. "Patents as Information Transfer Mechanisms: To Patent or (Maybe) Not to Patent," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 837-58, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Zhang, Tianle, 2009. "Patenting in the Shadow of Independent Discoveries by Rivals," MPRA Paper 32917, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2011.
  2. Erkal, Nisvan & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 2009. "Scarcity of Ideas and R&D Options: Use it, Lose it, or Bank it," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt74c709qr, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  3. Nisvan Erkal & Suzanne Scotchmer, 2008. "Scarcity of Ideas and Options to Invest in R&D," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1035, The University of Melbourne.
  4. Yiannaka, Amalia & Fulton, Murray E., 2006. "Getting Away With Robbery? Patenting Behavior With The Threat Of Infringement," 2006 Conference (50th), February 8-10, 2006, Sydney, Australia 139933, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  5. BHATTACHARYA, Sudipto & D’ASPREMONT, Claude & GURIEV, Sergei & SEN, Debapriya, 2012. "Cooperation in R&D: patenting, licensing and contracting," CORE Discussion Papers 2012055, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  6. Bronwyn Hall & Christian Helmers & Mark Rogers & Vania Sena, 2014. "The Choice between Formal and Informal Intellectual Property: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(2), pages 375-423, June.
  7. Joshua S. Gans & Fiona E. Murray & Scott Stern, 2013. "Contracting Over the Disclosure of Scientific Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Academic Publication," NBER Working Papers 19560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. de Rassenfosse, Gaétan, 2013. "Do firms face a trade-off between the quantity and the quality of their inventions?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(5), pages 1072-1079.
  9. ICHIDA Toshihiro, 2013. "Imitation versus Innovation Costs: Patent policies under common patent length," Discussion papers 13054, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  10. Yair Tauman & Debrapiya Sen, 2012. "Patents and Licenses," Department of Economics Working Papers 12-05, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
  11. Heger, Diana & Zaby, Alexandra K., 2012. "Giving away the game? The impact of the disclosure effect on the patenting decision," ZEW Discussion Papers 12-010, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  12. Aoki, Reiko & Spiegel, Yossi, 2009. "Pre-grant patent publication and cumulative innovation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 333-345, May.

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