Contracting for an Innovation under Bilateral Asymmetric Information
This article analyzes the optimal contract design between an inventor and a developer. The inventor is privately informed on the value of his idea. The developer must exert some non-verifiable effort to improve the probability of success of this innovation but may also choose to opt out of the relationship upon learning the quality of the idea. While first-best efficiency requires that all marginal returns on innovation be left to the developer, second-best efficiency taking into account this bilateral asymmetric information leads to distort downwards the developer’s incentives to prevent innovators from overstating the value of their ideas. There exists a trade-off between inviting inventor to reveal their ideas and inducing both effort and participation from the developer. The extent of this trade-off depends on the regime of property rights on ideas, i.e., on how easy to steal ideas. Since decreasing the marginal share of developers makes it more difficult to have them participating to the contract, countervailing incentives might sometimes appear. Taking into account those various effects leads to reduce the responsiveness of the contract to the exact value of the idea and might force to give up additional rents to the developer. Some extensions of our framework, including the cases of limited commitment, partial disclosure and double moral hazard, are studied to show the robustness and limits of our previous findings.
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