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Secrecy Versus Patents: Process Innovations and the Role of Uncertainty

Author

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  • Tapan Biswas
  • Jolian McHardy

    () (Department of Economics, The University of Sheffield)

Abstract

Whilst firms often prefer secrecy to patents and process innovations particu- larly lend themselves to secrecy, we establish a rationale for process innovators who patent. Using a simple two-period model, we show that under myopic op- timisation, the incentive to patent rather than pursue secrecy increases as the probability that the rival firm attaches to it being low-cost falls and as the pro- portion of the cost reduction due to the innovation, secured by the rival firm in the period after the patent has expired, falls. However, the gain to the innovating firm from patenting rather than secrecy strictly increases if the cost reduction due to the innovation is sufficiently small that the high-cost firm could profitably bluff that it is low-cost. Finally, allowing the low-cost firm the option of using an output signal in such cases, may make the patent strategy more or less attractive relative to the case of myopic optimisation.

Suggested Citation

  • Tapan Biswas & Jolian McHardy, 2012. "Secrecy Versus Patents: Process Innovations and the Role of Uncertainty," Working Papers 2012006, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:shf:wpaper:2012006
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    File URL: http://www.shef.ac.uk/economics/research/serps/articles/2012_006.html
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Klaus Kultti & Tuomas Takalo & Juuso Toikka, 2007. "Secrecy versus patenting," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(1), pages 22-42, March.
    2. Arundel, Anthony, 2001. "The relative effectiveness of patents and secrecy for appropriation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 611-624, April.
    3. Horstmann, Ignatius & MacDonald, Glenn M & Slivinski, Alan, 1985. "Patents as Information Transfer Mechanisms: To Patent or (Maybe) Not to Patent," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 837-858, October.
    4. Suzanne Scotchmer & Jerry Green, 1990. "Novelty and Disclosure in Patent Law," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 131-146, Spring.
    5. Vincenzo Denicolo & Luigi Alberto Franzoni, 2004. "Patents, Secrets, and the First-Inventor Defense," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 517-538, September.
    6. Bonanno, Giacomo & Haworth, Barry, 1998. "Intensity of competition and the choice between product and process innovation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 495-510, July.
    7. James J. Anton & Dennis A. Yao, 2004. "Little Patents and Big Secrets: Managing Intellectual Property," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 1-22, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Crass, Dirk & Garcia Valero, Francisco & Pitton, Francesco & Rammer, Christian, 2016. "Protecting innovation through patents and trade secrets: Determinants and performance impacts for firms with a single innovation," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-061, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cournot duopoly; patenting; secrecy; uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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