IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Intermediaries in the U.S. Market for Technology, 1870-1920


  • Naomi R Lamoreaux
  • Kenneth L Sokoloff


We argue that the emergence of a well-developed market for patented technologies over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries facilitated the emergence of a group of highly specialized and productive inventors by making it possible for them to transfer to others responsibility for developing and commercializing their inventions. The most basic of the institutional supports that made this market possible was, of course, the patent system, which created secure and tradable property rights in invention. But trade was also facilitated by the emergence of intermediaries who economized on the information costs associated with assessing the value of inventions and helped to match sellers and buyers of patent rights. Patent agents and lawyers were particularly well placed to provide these kinds of services, because they were linked to similar attorneys in other parts of the country and because, in the course of their regular business activities, they accumulated information about participants on both sides of the market for technology. Our quantitative analysis of assignment contracts demonstrates that patentees whose assignments were handled by these specialists produced more patents over their careers, assigned a greater fraction of their patents, and also were able to find buyers for their inventions much more quickly than other patentees. In other words, the development of institutions supporting market trade in patented technology seems to have made it possible for creative individuals to specialize more fully in inventive work -- that is, it seems to have set in motion the kind of Smithian processes that have generally been associated with higher rates of productivity growth.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Naomi R Lamoreaux & Kenneth L Sokoloff, 2003. "Intermediaries in the U.S. Market for Technology, 1870-1920," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000603, David K. Levine.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:618897000000000603

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Mario Benassi & Alfredo D'Angelo & Guido Geenen, 2012. "IP Intermediaries in Europe: A Web Content Analysis," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 307-325, May.
    2. Saiz, Patricio & Amengual, Rafael, 2016. "Knowledge Disclosure, Patent Management, and the Four-Stroke Engine Business," Working Papers in Economic History 2016/02, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).
    3. Paul H. Jensen & Alfons Palangkaraya & Elizabeth Webster, 2013. "Trust, Incomplete Contracts and the Market for Technology," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2013n03, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    4. Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Kenneth L. Sokoloff & Dhanoos Sutthiphisal, 2008. "The Reorganization of Inventive Activity in the United States during the Early Twentieth Century," NBER Chapters,in: Understanding Long-Run Economic Growth: Geography, Institutions, and the Knowledge Economy, pages 235-274 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Haber, Stephen H. & Werfel, Seth H., 2016. "Patent trolls as financial intermediaries? Experimental evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 64-66.
    6. Jensen, Paul H. & Palangkaraya, Alfons & Webster, Elizabeth, 2015. "Trust and the market for technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 340-356.
    7. Alberto Di Minin & Mario Benassi, 2008. "Playing In Between: Patents’ Brokers In Markets For Technology," Working Papers 200802, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa, Istituto di Management.
    8. Martin Giraudeau, 2010. "Performing Physiocracy," Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(2), pages 225-242, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:618897000000000603. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (David K. Levine). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.