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Business and Financial Method Patents, Innovation, and Policy

  • Bronwyn H. Hall

Two court decisions in the 1990s are widely viewed as having opened the door to a flood of business method and financial patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, and to have also impacted other patent offices around the world. A number of scholars, both legal and economic, have critiqued both the quality of these patents and the decisions themselves. This paper reviews the history of business method and financial patents briefly and then explores what economists know about the relationship between the patent system and innovation, in order to draw some tentative conclusions about their likely impact. It concludes by finding some consensus in the literature about the problems associated with this particular expansion of patentable subject matter, highlighting the remaining areas of disagreement, and reviewing the various policy recommendations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14868.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
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Publication status: published as Bronwyn H. Hall, 2009. "Business And Financial Method Patents, Innovation, And Policy," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 56(s1), pages 443-473, 09.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14868
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  1. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Thoma, Grid & Torrisi, Salvatore, 2010. "Financial Patenting in Europe," MERIT Working Papers 011, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  2. Hall, Bronwyn H., 2003. "Business Method Patents, Innovation, and Policy," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt66w6p7qz, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Yi Qian, 2007. "Do National Patent Laws Stimulate Domestic Innovation in a Global Patenting Environment? A Cross-Country Analysis of Pharmaceutical Patent Protection, 1978-2002," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 436-453, August.
  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. Robert M. Hunt, 2008. "Business method patents and U.S. financial services," Working Papers 08-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  6. Stuart J. H. Graham & Bronwyn H. Hall & Dietmar Harhoff & David C. Mowery, 2003. "Post-Issue Patent "Quality Control": A Comparative Study of US Patent Re-examinations and European Patent Oppositions," Industrial Organization 0303009, EconWPA.
  7. Tufano, Peter, 1989. "Financial innovation and first-mover advantages," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 213-240, December.
  8. Wesley M. Cohen & Richard R. Nelson & John P. Walsh, 2000. "Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (or Not)," NBER Working Papers 7552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1996. "Protecting Early Innovators: Should Second-Generation Products Be Patentable?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(2), pages 322-331, Summer.
  10. Petra Moser, 2005. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World's Fairs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1214-1236, September.
  11. James Bessen & Eric Maskin, 2006. "Sequential Innovation, Patents, and Imitation," Economics Working Papers 0025, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  12. Joseph Farrell & Carl Shapiro, 2008. "How Strong Are Weak Patents?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1347-69, September.
  13. 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.
  14. Carl Shapiro, 2004. "Navigating the Patent Thicket: Cross Licenses, Patent Pools and Standard Setting," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000000539, David K. Levine.
  15. Lanjouw, Jean O & Schankerman, Mark, 2001. "Characteristics of Patent Litigation: A Window on Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 129-51, Spring.
  16. Bronwyn H. Hall & Stuart J. H. Graham & Dietmar Harhoff & David C. Mowery, 2004. "Prospects for Improving U.S. Patent Quality via Post-grant Opposition," Law and Economics 0401002, EconWPA.
  17. Robert P. Merges, 2003. "The uninvited guest: patents on Wall Street," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q4, pages 1-14.
  18. Arora, Ashish & Ceccagnoli, Marco & Cohen, Wesley M., 2008. "R&D and the patent premium," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 1153-1179, September.
  19. Hall, Bronwyn H. & MacGarvie, Megan, 2010. "The private value of software patents," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 994-1009, September.
  20. Kingston, William, 2001. "Innovation needs patents reform," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 403-423, March.
  21. Stefan Wagner, 2004. "Business Method Patents in Europe and their Strategic Use – Evidence from Franking Device Manufacturers," Law and Economics 0410003, EconWPA.
  22. Walter G. Park & Juan Carlos Ginarte, 1997. "Intellectual Property Rights And Economic Growth," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(3), pages 51-61, 07.
  23. Sunil Kanwar & Robert Evenson, 2003. "Does intellectual property protection spur technological change?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(2), pages 235-264, April.
  24. Jonathan Levin & Richard Levin, . "Patent Oppositions," Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series yale_lepp-1005, Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy.
  25. Merges, Robert P, 2003. "The Uninvited Guest: Patents on Wall Street," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt46g5m6z3, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  26. Hall, Bronwyn H & Ziedonis, Rosemarie Ham, 2001. "The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 101-28, Spring.
  27. Edwin Mansfield, 1986. "Patents and Innovation: An Empirical Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(2), pages 173-181, February.
  28. Praveen Kumar & Stuart M. Turnbull, 2008. "Optimal Patenting and Licensing of Financial Innovations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(12), pages 2012-2023, December.
  29. Lerner, Josh, 2006. "The new new financial thing: The origins of financial innovations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 223-255, February.
  30. Bronwyn H. Hall & Lee Manfred, 2007. "Innovation in non-bank payment systems," Proceedings – Payments System Research Conferences, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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