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University Versus Corporate Patents: A Window On The Basicness Of Invention


  • Manuel Trajtenberg
  • Rebecca Henderson
  • Adam Jaffe


This paper is an attempt to quantify key aspects of innovations, 'basicness' and appropriability, and explore the linkages between them. We rely on detailed patent data. particularly on patent citations, thus awarding the proposed measures a very wide coverage. Relying on the prior that universities perform more basic research than corporations, we find that forward-looking measures of 'importance' and 'generality' capture aspects of the basicness of innovations. Similarly, measures of the degree of reliance on scientific sources. and of the closeness to the origins of innovational paths, appear to reflect the basicness of research. As measures of appropriability we use the fraction of citations coming from patents awarded to the sarne inventor, and in fact these measures are much higher for corporations than fbr universities. An examination of a small number of patents that are universally recognized as 'basic' provides further support for these measures. We find also evidence of the existence of 'technologl trajectories'.

Suggested Citation

  • Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson & Adam Jaffe, 1997. "University Versus Corporate Patents: A Window On The Basicness Of Invention," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 19-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:ecinnt:v:5:y:1997:i:1:p:19-50
    DOI: 10.1080/10438599700000006

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    Patents; citations; innovation; basic research JEL Codes: O30 C81;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access


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