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Innovation without Patents: Evidence from World’s Fairs

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  • Petra Moser

Abstract

This paper introduces a unique historical data set of more than 8,000 British and American innovations at world’s fairs between 1851 and 1915 to explore the relationship between patents and innovations. The data indicate that the majority of innovations—89 percent of British exhibits in 1851—were not patented. Comparisons across British and U.S. data also show that patenting decisions were unresponsive to differences in patent laws. Cross-sectional evidence suggests that high-quality and urban exhibits were more likely to be patented. The most significant differences, however, occurred across industries: inventors were most likely to use patents in industries in which innovations are easy to reverse engineer and secrecy is ineffective relative to patents. In the late nineteenth century, scientific breakthroughs, including the publication of the periodic table, reduced the effectiveness of secrecy in the chemical industry. Difference-in-differences regressions suggest that this change resulted in a significant shift toward patenting.

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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/663631
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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/663631
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 55 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 43 - 74

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/663631

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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Cited by:
  1. M. Scott Taylor, 2007. "Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison," NBER Working Papers 12969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Petra Moser & Alessandra Voena, 2012. "Compulsory Licensing: Evidence from the Trading with the Enemy Act," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 396-427, February.
  3. Mara P. Squicciarini & Nico Voigtländer, 2014. "Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment," NBER Working Papers 20219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Roberto Fontana & Alessandro Nuvolari & Hiroshi Shimizu & Andrea Vezzulli, 2013. "Reassessing patent propensity: evidence from a data-set of R&D awards 1977-2004," Working Papers Department of Economics, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon 2013/09, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  5. 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.

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