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Royalty Stacking in High Tech Industries: Separating Myth from Reality

  • Geradin, Damien
  • Layne-Farrar, Anna
  • Padilla, Atilano Jorge
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    A few recent contributions have claimed that in high-tech industries—where innovation is often cumulative and products include many components which are protected by patents in the hands of many different patent holders—the cost of obtaining all necessary licenses is too high. Some have even requested sweeping policy reforms to deal with the so-called royalty stacking problem. In this Essay we find that the empirical evidence—including new evidence for the 3G telecom industry—does not corroborate the gloomy predictions of the proponents of the royalty stacking hypothesis. A careful look at the theoretical underpinnings of this hypothesis explains the lack of empirical support. First, three necessary conditions must be satisfied for a royalty stacking problem to exist: (a) innovation must be cumulative, so that the patents are complementary; (b) there must be many patents for a given product; and (c) the many patents must be held by numerous, distinct rights holders. Second, royalty stacking may not be a problem even if the three necessary conditions are met; i.e., the three necessary conditions are not sufficient. And, third, several market mechanisms, such as cross licensing or voluntary patent pools, can be used to mitigate the costs of multiple concurrent patent negotiations. We conclude that the so-called royalty stacking problem is more myth than reality and that there is no reason to adopt the dramatic reforms in antitrust and patent law that have been recently proposed by, inter alia, Lemley and Shapiro (2006).

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    Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6091.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6091
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    1. Jerry R. Green & Suzanne Scotchmer, 1995. "On the Division of Profit in Sequential Innovation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(1), pages 20-33, Spring.
    2. Rosemarie Ham Ziedonis, 2004. "Don't Fence Me In: Fragmented Markets for Technology and the Patent Acquisition Strategies of Firms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(6), pages 804-820, June.
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    4. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1991. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Cumulative Research and the Patent Law," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 29-41, Winter.
    5. Shapiro, Carl, 2006. "Injunctions, Hold-Up, and Patent Royalties," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt6px3m1rb, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    6. Scherer, F. M. & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2000. "Technology policy for a world of skew-distributed outcomes," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 559-566, April.
    7. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
    8. Ariel Pakes, 1984. "Patents as Options: Some Estimates of the Value of Holding European Patent Stocks," NBER Working Papers 1340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Paul A. David, 2005. "The Economic Logic of “Open Science” and the Balance between Private Property Rights and the Public Domain in Scientific Data and," Development and Comp Systems 0502006, EconWPA.
    10. Fama, Eugene F, 1970. "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 383-417, May.
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