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The private values of 'thickets' and 'fences': towards an updated picture of the use of patents across industries


  • Markus Reitzig


On the basis of a novel data set of 612 European patents and related inventions from five different industries, it is shown that multiple patents per invention are filed in both discrete and complex technologies. Multivariate analysis of the data suggests that in selected discrete technologies, patent 'fences' may serve to exclude competitors whereas in complex technologies, 'thickets' represent exchange forums for complementary technology. The results expand on traditional views of profitable patent exploitation across industries and elaborate on the most recent findings by Cohen et al. (Cohen, W.M., Nelson, R.R. and Walsh, J.P. (2000) Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (or not). Cambridge, MA: NBER.) The analysis suggests that different legislative issues arise from multiple patenting per innovation in complex and discrete technologies depending on the degree of technological complementarity. The results have unexpected policy implications in that they illustrate how patentees could eliminate competition in the form of substitute technologies through fencing. They have wide managerial implications regarding the valuation of patent portfolios and the design of corporate IP strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Reitzig, 2004. "The private values of 'thickets' and 'fences': towards an updated picture of the use of patents across industries," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(5), pages 457-476.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:ecinnt:v:13:y:2004:i:5:p:457-476 DOI: 10.1080/1043859042000188719

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard Gilbert & Carl Shapiro, 1990. "Optimal Patent Length and Breadth," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 106-112, Spring.
    2. 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.
    3. Bekkers, Rudi & Duysters, Geert & Verspagen, Bart, 2002. "Intellectual property rights, strategic technology agreements and market structure: The case of GSM," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(7), pages 1141-1161, September.
    4. Jean O. Lanjouw & Ariel Pakes & Jonathan Putnam, 1996. "How to Count Patents and Value Intellectual Property: Uses of Patent Renewal and Application Data," NBER Working Papers 5741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. William D. Nordhaus, 1967. "The Optimal Life of a Patent," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 241, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    6. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arora, Ashish & Ceccagnoli, Marco & Cohen, Wesley M., 2008. "R&D and the patent premium," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 1153-1179, September.
    2. repec:eee:tefoso:v:123:y:2017:i:c:p:181-190 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Grimpe, Christoph & Hussinger, Katrin, 2014. "Pre-empted patents, infringed patents and firms’ participation in markets for technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 543-554.
    4. Bart Leten & Rene Belderbos & Bart Van Looy, 2016. "Entry and Technological Performance in New Technology Domains: Technological Opportunities, Technology Competition and Technological Relatedness," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(8), pages 1257-1291, December.
    5. Sternitzke, Christian, 2013. "An exploratory analysis of patent fencing in pharmaceuticals: The case of PDE5 inhibitors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 542-551.
    6. Kyoo-Ho Park, 2014. "The effectiveness of patents and the determinants of patenting activities in Korea," Chapters,in: Intellectual Property for Economic Development, chapter 12, pages 287-306 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Chondrakis, George, 2016. "Unique synergies in technology acquisitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(9), pages 1873-1889.
    8. Sanghoon Ahn & Bronwyn H. Hall & Keun Lee (ed.), 2014. "Intellectual Property for Economic Development," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 15464.
    9. Gaétan de Rassenfosse & Adam B. Jaffe, 2017. "Econometric Evidence on the R&D Depreciation Rate," NBER Working Papers 23072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Fred Ramb & Markus Reitzig, 2005. "Who do you trust while Shares are on a Roler-Coaster Ride? Balance Sheet and Patent Data as Sources of Investor Information During Volatile Market Times," DRUID Working Papers 05-15, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.


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