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International Patenting and Technology Diffusion

  • Jonathan Eaton
  • Samuel Kortum

We model the invention of new technologies and their diffusion across countries. Our model predicts that, eventually, all countries will grow at the same rate, with each country's productivity ranking determined by how rapidly it adopts inventions. The common growth rate depends on research efforts in all countries, while research effort is determined by how much inventions earn at home and abroad. Patents affect the return to invention. We relate the decision to patent an invention internationally to the cost of patenting in a country and to the expected value of patent protection in that country. We can thus infer the direction and magnitude of the international diffusion of technology from data on international patenting, productivity, and research. We fit the model to data from the five leading research economies. The parameters indicate how much technology flows between these countries and how much each country earns from its inventions domestically and elsewhere. Our results imply that foreign countries are important sources of technology even though countries earn most of their return to innovation at home. For example, about half of U.S. productivity growth derives from foreign technology yet U.S. inventors earn 98 per cent of the revenue from their inventions domestically.

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Paper provided by Boston University, Institute for Economic Development in its series Boston University - Institute for Economic Development with number 50.

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Date of creation: Nov 1994
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Handle: RePEc:fth:bosecd:50
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  1. Segerstrom, P.S., 1990. "Innovation, Imitation And Economic Growth," Papers 8818, Michigan State - Econometrics and Economic Theory.
  2. Richard R. Nelson & Edmond S. Phelps, 1965. "Investment in Humans, Technological Diffusion and Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 189, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. John F. Helliwell & Alan Chung, 1990. "Macroeconomic Convergence: International Transmission of Growth and Technical Progress," NBER Working Papers 3264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fagerberg, Jan, 1994. "Technology and International Differences in Growth Rates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(3), pages 1147-75, September.
  5. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
  6. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Innovation, Technology Transfer, and the World Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(2), pages 253-66, April.
  7. Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1992. "R&D Investment and International Productivity Differences," NBER Working Papers 4161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Benhabib, Jess & Spiegel, Mark M., 1994. "The role of human capital in economic development evidence from aggregate cross-country data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 143-173, October.
  9. Jovanovic, Boyan & Lach, Saul, 1990. "The Diffusion Of Technology And Inequality Among Nations," Working Papers 90-34, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  10. Jan Fagerberg, 1987. "A technology gap approach to why growth rates differ," Working Papers Archives 1987002, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
  11. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "Time Series Tests of Endogenous Growth Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 495-525, May.
  12. Samuel Kortum, 1994. "A Model of Research, Patenting, and Productivity Growth," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 37, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  13. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
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