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How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?

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  • Paul Klemperer

Abstract

I explore the trade-off between a patent's length (that is, its lifetime) and its width (that is, its scope of coverage). A wider patent generally reduces the distortion of consumers' choices between the patented brand of the product and unpatented, lower-priced varieties sold by competitors but also permits higher prices, which increase (relative to profits) the deadweight losses from consumers switching consumption out of the product class. I show under what conditions infinitely lived but very narrowly focused patents are the socially efficient way to reward innovation and under what conditions very short-lived but very broad patents are optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Klemperer, 1990. "How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 113-130, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:21:y:1990:i:spring:p:113-130
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    1. A. Mitchell Polinsky, 1979. "Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines," NBER Working Papers 0338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1989. "Legal Error, Litigation, and the Incentive to Obey the Law," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 99-108, Spring.
    4. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1974. "The Private Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 0062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Katz, Avery, 1990. "The effect of frivolous lawsuits on the settlement of litigation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 3-27, May.
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