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Patent Buy-Outs: A Mechanism for Encouraging Innovation

  • Michael Kremer

In 1839, the French government purchased the patent on the Daguerreotype process and" placed it in the public domain. This paper examines a mechanism under which governments" would use an auction to estimate the private value of patents and then offer to buy out patents at" this private value, times a fixed markup. The markup would correspond to the estimated typical" ratio of the social and private values of inventions -- perhaps two. Most patents purchased would" be placed in the public domain, but in order to induce bidders to reveal their valuations patents would be sold to the highest bidder. Such patent buy-outs could eliminate monopoly" price distortions and incentives for wasteful reverse engineering, while raising private incentives" for original research closer to their social value. However, patent buy-outs are potentially" vulnerable to collusion. Patent buy-outs may be particularly appropriate for pharmaceuticals."

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6304.

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Date of creation: Dec 1997
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Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics (November 1998): 1137-1167.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6304
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  1. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Charles I. Jones & John C. Williams, . "Too Much of a Good Thing? The Economics of Investment in R&D," Working Papers 95006, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  3. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "R&D-Based Models of Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 759-84, August.
  4. Milgrom, Paul & Weber, Robert J., 1982. "The value of information in a sealed-bid auction," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 105-114, June.
  5. Hendricks, Kenneth & Porter, Robert H. & Wilson, Charles A., 1990. "Auctions For Oil And Gas Leases With An Informed Bidder And A Random Reservation Price," Working Papers 90-47, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  6. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "Digging for Golden Carrots: An Analysis of Research Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 872-90, September.
  7. Spence, Michael, 1984. "Cost Reduction, Competition, and Industry Performance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 101-21, January.
  8. Hendricks, Kenneth & Porter, Robert H, 1988. "An Empirical Study of an Auction with Asymmetric Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 865-83, December.
  9. Mark Johnston & Richard Zeckhauser, 1991. "The Australian Pharmaceutical Subsidy Gambit: Transmuting Deadweight Loss and Oligopoly Rents to Consumer Surplus," NBER Working Papers 3783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Bernstein, Jeffrey I. & Nadiri, M. Ishaq, 1988. "Interindustry R&D, Rates of Return and Production in High-Tech Industries," Working Papers 88-04, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  11. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & M. Ishaq Nadiri, 1991. "Product Demand, Cost of Production, Spillovers, and the Social Rate of Return to R&D," NBER Working Papers 3625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Mansfield, Edwin & Schwartz, Mark & Wagner, Samuel, 1981. "Imitation Costs and Patents: An Empirical Study," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 907-18, December.
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