Are Patent Laws Harmful to Developing Countries? Evidence from China
Has upgrading and enforcing its patent laws slowed China’s economic growth? The answer we draw from detailed analysis of provincial aggregate data covering roughly the period 1990 through 2007 is strongly negative, but understanding the channels through which stricter protection of intellectual property rights has contributed to more rapid productivity growth is elusive. Our best estimate of the direct impact of the 1992 and 2001 patent laws on TFP growth amounts to not quite 15 percent of the average TFP growth rate over the period, but a much larger share of TFP growth is associated with enactment of the laws in a simple interpretation of our empirical investigation. We estimate that virtually none of the laws’ impact on TFP growth can be directly associated with increased quantity of FDI or R&D, although both series are strongly positively correlated with promulgation of the patent laws. We infer that amount of technology transfer through a FDI and the focus of R&D activity, decline of state ownership and increased marketization, growth of the human capital stock, and movement of the labor force from agriculture to manufacturing and service industries are all processes that were encouraged and whose effect has been magnified by stronger IPR protection. Moreover, adopting and enforcing the patent laws probably cannot be treated as an independent event with causation running in only one direction to China’s economic development..
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