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Catching-Up and Falling Behind: Knowledge Spillover from American to German Machine Toolmakers

  • RICHTER, RALF
  • STREB, JOCHEN

Today, German machine toolmakers accuse their Chinese competitors of violating patent rights and imitating German technology. A century ago, German machine toolmakers used the same methods to imitate American technology. To understand the dynamics of this catching-up process, we use patent statistics to analyze firms’ activities between 1877 and 1932. We show that German firms deployed imitating strategies in the late nineteenth century and the 1920s to catch-up to their American competitors. The German administration supported this strategy by stipulating a patent law that discriminated against foreign patent holders and by delaying the granting of patents to foreign applicants.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 71 (2011)
Issue (Month): 04 (December)
Pages: 1006-1031

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:71:y:2011:i:04:p:1006-1031_00
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  1. Streb, Jochen & Wallusch, Jacek & Yin, Shuxi, 2007. "Knowledge spill-over from new to old industries: The case of German synthetic dyes and textiles (1878-1913)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 203-223, April.
  2. Kirsten Labuske & Jochen Streb, 2008. "Technological Creativity and Cheap Labour? Explaining the Growing International Competitiveness of German Mechanical Engineering before World War I," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9, pages 65-86, 02.
  3. Griliches, Zvi, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 1661-1707, December.
  4. Pakes, Ariel S, 1986. "Patents as Options: Some Estimates of the Value of Holding European Patent Stocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 755-84, July.
  5. Michele Boldrin & David K Levine, 2008. "Against Intellectual Monopoly," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000002371, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Sullivan, Richard J, 1994. "Estimates of the Value of Patent Rights in Great Britain and Ireland, 1852-1876," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(241), pages 37-58, February.
  7. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521684156 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Petra Moser, 2003. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs," NBER Working Papers 9909, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jochen Streb & J�Rg Baten & Shuxi Yin, 2006. "Technological and geographical knowledge spillover in the German empire 1877-1918," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 59(2), pages 347-373, 05.
  11. Abramovitz, Moses, 1986. "Catching Up, Forging Ahead, and Falling Behind," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(02), pages 385-406, June.
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