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Rewarding sequential innovators: prizes, patents and buyouts

  • Gerard Llobet
  • Hugo Hopenhayn
  • Matthew F. Mitchell

This paper presents a model of cumulative innovation where firms are heterogeneous in their research ability. We study the optimal reward policy when the quality of the ideas and their subsequent development effort are private information. The optimal assignment of property rights must counterbalance the incentives of current and future innovators. The resulting mechanism resembles a menu of patents that have infinite duration and fixed scope, where the latter increases in the value of the idea. Finally, we provide a way to implement this patent menu by using a simple buyout scheme: The innovator commits at the outset to a price ceiling at which he will sell his rights to a future inventor. By paying a larger fee initially, a higher price ceiling is obtained. Any subsequent innovator must pay this price and purchase its own buyout fee contract.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 273.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:273
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  1. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1986. "Using Cost Observation to Regulate Firms," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 614-41, June.
  2. Wright, Brian Davern, 1983. "The Economics of Invention Incentives: Patents, Prizes, and Research Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 691-707, September.
  3. Richard Gilbert & Carl Shapiro, 1990. "Optimal Patent Length and Breadth," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 106-112, Spring.
  4. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1999. "On the Optimality of the Patent Renewal System," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 181-196, Summer.
  5. Steven Shavell & Tanguy van Ypersele, 1999. "Rewards versus Intellectual Property Rights," NBER Working Papers 6956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Francesca Cornelli & Mark Schankerman, 1999. "Patent Renewals and R&D Incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 197-213, Summer.
  7. Green, J.R. & Scotchmer, S., 1993. "On the Division of Profit in Sequential Innovation," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1638, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  8. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1969. "Classificatory Notes on the Production and Transmission of Technological Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 29-35, May.
  9. O'DONOGHUE, Ted & SCOTCHMER, Suzanne & THISSE, Jacques-François, . "Patent breadth, patent life, and the pace of technological progress," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1314, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  10. Suzanne Scotchmer & Jerry Green, 1990. "Novelty and Disclosure in Patent Law," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 131-146, Spring.
  11. Tandon, Pankaj, 1982. "Optimal Patents with Compulsory Licensing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(3), pages 470-86, June.
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