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The Decision to Patent, Cumulative Innovation,and Optimal Policy

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  • Nisvan Erkal

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

Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 877.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:877

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Keywords: cumulative innovation; patenting decision; patent policy; antitrust policy;

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References

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  1. Nancy T. Gallini, 2002. "The Economics of Patents: Lessons from Recent U.S. Patent Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 131-154, Spring.
  2. Suzanne Scotchmer & Jerry Green, 1990. "Novelty and Disclosure in Patent Law," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 131-146, Spring.
  3. Lanjouw, Jean O & Schankerman, Mark, 2001. "Characteristics of Patent Litigation: A Window on Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 129-51, Spring.
  4. Shapiro, Carl, 2000. "Navigating the Patent Thicket: Cross Licenses, Patent Pools, and Standard-Setting," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt4hs5s9wk, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  5. Loury, Glenn C, 1979. "Market Structure and Innovation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 395-410, August.
  6. Vincenzo Denicolo, 2002. "Sequential innovation and the patent-antitrust conflict," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(4), pages 649-668, October.
  7. Mansfield, Edwin, 1985. "How Rapidly Does New Industrial Technology Leak Out?," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(2), pages 217-23, December.
  8. Charles I. Jones & John C. Williams, 1998. "Measuring The Social Return To R&D," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1119-1135, November.
  9. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1983. "Uncertain Innovation and the Persistence of Monopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 741-48, September.
  10. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1988. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial R&D," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 862, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  11. Priest, George L, 1977. "Cartels and Patent License Arrangements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 309-77, October.
  12. Howard F. Chang, 1995. "Patent Scope, Antitrust Policy, and Cumulative Innovation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(1), pages 34-57, Spring.
  13. Nancy Gallini & Suzanne Scotchmer, 2003. "Intellectual Property: When is it the Best Incentive System?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000532, David K. Levine.
  14. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1991. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Cumulative Research and the Patent Law," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 29-41, Winter.
  15. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1987. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(3), pages 783-832.
  16. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Gilbert, Richard J & Newbery, David M G, 1982. "Preemptive Patenting and the Persistence of Monopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 514-26, June.
  18. O'DONOGHUE, Ted & SCOTCHMER, Suzanne & THISSE, Jacques-François, . "Patent breadth, patent life, and the pace of technological progress," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1314, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  19. Adam B. Jaffe & Josh Lerner & Scott Stern, 2002. "Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 2," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number jaff02-1.
  20. Vincenzo Denicolo & Luigi Alberto Franzoni, 2004. "Patents, Secrets, and the First-Inventor Defense," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 517-538, 09.
  21. Denicolo, Vincenzo & Zanchettin, Piercarlo, 2002. "How should forward patent protection be provided?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 801-827, June.
  22. Nancy T. Gallini, 1992. "Patent Policy and Costly Imitation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(1), pages 52-63, Spring.
  23. Lanjouw, Jean Olson, 1998. "Patent Protection in the Shadow of Infringement: Simulation Estimations of Patent Value," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 671-710, October.
  24. 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.
  25. Wesley M Cohen & Richard R Nelson & John P Walsh, 2003. "Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (Or Not)," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000624, David K. Levine.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Zhang, Tianle, 2009. "Patenting in the Shadow of Independent Discoveries by Rivals," MPRA Paper 32917, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2011.
  4. Yair Tauman & Debrapiya Sen, 2012. "Patents and Licenses," Department of Economics Working Papers 12-05, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  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. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).

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