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How Antitrust Enforcement Can Spur Innovation

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  • Watzinger, Martin

    (University of Munich)

  • Fackler, Thomas A.

    (University of Munich)

  • Nagler, Markus

    (University of Munich)

Abstract

We study the 1956 consent decree against the Bell System to investigate whether patents held by a dominant firm are harmful for innovation and if so, whether compulsory licensing can provide an effective remedy. The consent decree settled an antitrust lawsuit that charged Bell with having foreclosed the market for telecommunications equipment. The terms of the decree allowed Bell to remain a vertically integrated monopolist in the telecommunications industry, but as a remedy, Bell had to license all its existing patents royalty-free. Thus, the path-breaking technologies developed by the Bell Laboratories became freely available to all US companies. We show that in the first five years compulsory licensing increased follow-on innovation building on Bell patents by 17%. This effect is driven mainly by young and small companies. Yet, innovation increased only outside the telecommunications equipment industry. The lack of a positive innovation effect in the telecommunications industry suggests that market foreclosure impedes innovation and that compulsory licensing without structural remedies is ineffective in ending it. The increase of follow-on innovation by small and young companies is in line with the hypothesis that patents held by a dominant firm act as a barrier to entry for start-ups. We show that the removal of this barrier increased long-run U.S. innovation, corroborating historical accounts.

Suggested Citation

  • Watzinger, Martin & Fackler, Thomas A. & Nagler, Markus, 2017. "How Antitrust Enforcement Can Spur Innovation," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 4, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
  • Handle: RePEc:rco:dpaper:4
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    Cited by:

    1. Ashish Arora & Sharon Belenzon & Andrea Patacconi & Jungkyu Suh, 2020. "The Changing Structure of American Innovation: Some Cautionary Remarks for Economic Growth," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 39-93.
    2. Davide Cantoni & Noam Yuchtman, 2020. "Historical Natural Experiments: Bridging Economics and Economic History," NBER Working Papers 26754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Bernhard Ganglmair & Imke Reimers, 2019. "Visibility of Technology and Cumulative Innovation: Evidence from Trade Secrets Laws," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2019_119v1, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    4. Oliver Falck, 2019. "Brauchen wir eine aktive europäische Industriepolitik?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 72(10), pages 12-15, May.
    5. Gaessler, Fabian & Harhoff, Dietmar & Sorg, Stefan, 2019. "Bargaining Failure and Freedom to Operate: Re-evaluating the Effect of Patents on Cumulative Innovation," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 220, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    6. Po-Hsuan Hsu & Hsiao-Hui Lee & Tong Zhou, 2022. "Patent Thickets, Stock Returns, and Conditional CAPM," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 68(11), pages 8343-8367, November.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General

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