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International Technology Diffusion: Theory and Measurement


  • Eaton, Jonathan
  • Kortum, Samuel


We model the invention of new technologies and their diffusion across countries. In our model all countries grow at the same steady-state rate, with each country's productivity ranking determined by how rapidly it adopts ideas. Research effort is determined by how much ideas earn at home and abroad. Patents affect the return to ideas. We relate the decision to patent an invention internationally to the cost of patenting in a country and to the expected value of patent protection in that country. We can thus infer the direction and magnitude of the international diffusion of technology from data on international patenting, productivity, and research. We fit the model to data from the five leading research economies. A rough summary of our findings is that the world lies about two-thirds of the way from an extreme of technological autarky to an extreme of free trade in ideas. Research performed abroad is about two-thirds as potent as domestic research. Together the United States and Japan drive at least two-thirds of the growth in each of the countries in our sample. Copyright 1999 by Economics Department of the University of Pennsylvania and the Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Eaton, Jonathan & Kortum, Samuel, 1999. "International Technology Diffusion: Theory and Measurement," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(3), pages 537-570, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ier:iecrev:v:40:y:1999:i:3:p:537-70

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan Eaton & Gene M. Grossman, 1986. "Optimal Trade and Industrial Policy Under Oligopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 383-406.
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    5. Kai-Uwe Kuhn, 1997. "Nonlinear Pricing in Vertically Related Duopolies," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(1), pages 37-62, Spring.
    6. Caillaud, Bernard & Jullien, B & Picard, P, 1995. "Competing Vertical Structures: Precommitment and Renegotiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(3), pages 621-646, May.
    7. Fershtman, Chaim & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "Equilibrium Incentives in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 927-940, December.
    8. Brander, James A. & Spencer, Barbara J., 1985. "Export subsidies and international market share rivalry," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1-2), pages 83-100, February.
    9. Horstmann, Ignatius J. & Markusen, James R., 1986. "Up the average cost curve: Inefficient entry and the new protectionism," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3-4), pages 225-247, May.
    10. Maggi, Giovanni, 1996. "Strategic Trade Policies with Endogenous Mode of Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 237-258, March.
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