IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v27y2013i1p3-22.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Case against Patents

Author

Listed:
  • Michele Boldrin
  • David K. Levine

Abstract

The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. Both theory and evidence suggest that while patents can have a partial equilibrium effect of improving incentives to invent, the general equilibrium effect on innovation can be negative. A properly designed patent system might serve to increase innovation at a certain time and place. Unfortunately, the political economy of government-operated patent systems indicates that such systems are susceptible to pressures that cause the ill effects of patents to grow over time. Our preferred policy solution is to abolish patents entirely and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent seeking, to foster innovation when there is clear evidence that laissez-faire undersupplies it. However, if that policy change seems too large to swallow, we discuss in the conclusion a set of partial reforms that could be implemented.

Suggested Citation

  • Michele Boldrin & David K. Levine, 2013. "The Case against Patents," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 3-22, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:1:p:3-22
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.1.3
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.27.1.3
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 347-363, May.
    2. Josh Lerner, 2009. "The Empirical Impact of Intellectual Property Rights on Innovation: Puzzles and Clues," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 343-348, May.
    3. Philippe Aghion & Nick Bloom & Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2005. "Competition and Innovation: an Inverted-U Relationship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 701-728.
    4. Petra Moser, 2005. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World's Fairs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1214-1236, September.
    5. Jovanovic, Boyan & MacDonald, Glenn M, 1994. "The Life Cycle of a Competitive Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 322-347, April.
    6. Carl Shapiro, 2008. "Patent Reform: Aligning Reward and Contribution," NBER Chapters,in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 8, pages 111-156 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gastón Llanes & Stefano Trento, 2012. "Patent policy, patent pools, and the accumulation of claims in sequential innovation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 50(3), pages 703-725, August.
    8. Lanjouw, J.O., 1997. "The Introduction of Pharmaceutical Product Patents in India: "Heartless Exploitation of the Poor and Suffering"?," Papers 775, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    9. Juan A. Correa, 2012. "Innovation and competition: An unstable relationship," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(1), pages 160-166, January.
    10. Paul Grootendorst & Aidan Hollis & David K Levine & Thomas Pogge & Aled M Edwards, 2010. "New Approaches to Rewarding Pharmaceutical Innovation," Levine's Bibliography 661465000000000169, UCLA Department of Economics.
    11. Carlos J Ponce, 2007. "More Secrecy...More Knowledge Disclosure? On Disclosure Outside of Patents," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001600, David K. Levine.
    12. Michele Boldrin & Juan C Allamand & David K Levine & Carmine Ornaghi, 2011. "Competition and Innovation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000232, David K. Levine.
    13. Michele Boldrin & David K Levine, 2004. "The Economics of Ideas and Intellectual Property," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000000631, David K. Levine.
    14. Wesley M. Cohen & Richard R. Nelson & John P. Walsh, 2000. "Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (or Not)," NBER Working Papers 7552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Sunil Kanwar & Robert Evenson, 2003. "Does intellectual property protection spur technological change?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(2), pages 235-264, April.
    16. Panle Gia & Pinelopi K. Goldberg & Shubham Chaudhuri, 2006. "Estimating the Effects of Global Patent Protection in Pharmaceuticals: A Case Study of Quinolones in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1477-1514, December.
    17. Brett Danaher & Samita Dhanasobhon & Michael D. Smith & Rahul Telang, 2010. "Converting Pirates Without Cannibalizing Purchasers: The Impact of Digital Distribution on Physical Sales and Internet Piracy," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(6), pages 1138-1151, 11-12.
    18. Boldrin,Michele & Levine,David K., 2010. "Against Intellectual Monopoly," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521127264, October.
    19. Michael Kremer & Heidi Williams, 2010. "Incentivizing Innovation: Adding to the Tool Kit," NBER Chapters,in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 1-17 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Nuvolari, Alessandro, 2006. "The Making of Steam Power Technology: A Study of Technical Change during the British Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(02), pages 472-476, June.
    21. Aamir Rafique Hashmi, 2013. "Competition and Innovation: The Inverted-U Relationship Revisited," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1653-1668, December.
    22. DiMasi, Joseph A. & Hansen, Ronald W. & Grabowski, Henry G., 2003. "The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 151-185, March.
    23. Moser, Petra, 2004. "Determinants of Innovation Evidence from 19th Century World Fairs," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 548-552, June.
    24. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:1:p:3-22. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.