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Catching-up and falling behind: knowledge spillover from American to German machine tool makers

  • Richter, Ralf
  • Streb, Jochen

In our days, German machine tool makers accuse their Chinese competitors of violating patent rights and illegally imitating German technology. A century ago, however, German machine tool makers used exactly the same methods to imitate American technology. To understand the dynamics of this catching-up process we use patent statistics to analyze firms' activities between 1877 and 1932. We show that German machine tool makers successfully deployed imitating and counterfeiting activities in the late 19th century and the 1920s to catchup to their American competitors. The German administration supported this strategy by stipulating a patent law that discriminated against foreign patent holders and probably also by delaying the granting of patents to foreign applicants. Parallel to the growing international competitiveness of German firms, however, the willingness to guarantee intellectual property rights of foreigners was also increasing because German firms had now to fear retaliatory measures in their own export markets when violating foreign property rights within Germany.

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Paper provided by University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID) in its series FZID Discussion Papers with number 09-2009.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fziddp:200909
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  1. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 287-343 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521684156 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Petra Moser, 2003. "How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs," NBER Working Papers 9909, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Streb, Jochen & Wallusch, Jacek & Yin, Shuxi, 2007. "Knowledge spill-over from new to old industries: The case of German synthetic dyes and textiles (1878-1913)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 203-223, April.
  5. Ariel Pakes, 1984. "Patents as Options: Some Estimates of the Value of Holding European Patent Stocks," NBER Working Papers 1340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Michele Boldrin & David K Levine, 2008. "Against Intellectual Monopoly," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000002371, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Abramovitz, Moses, 1986. "Catching Up, Forging Ahead, and Falling Behind," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(02), pages 385-406, June.
  8. Sullivan, Richard J, 1994. "Estimates of the Value of Patent Rights in Great Britain and Ireland, 1852-1876," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(241), pages 37-58, February.
  9. Jochen Streb & J�Rg Baten & Shuxi Yin, 2006. "Technological and geographical knowledge spillover in the German empire 1877-1918," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 59(2), pages 347-373, 05.
  10. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Kirsten Labuske & Jochen Streb, 2008. "Technological Creativity and Cheap Labour? Explaining the Growing International Competitiveness of German Mechanical Engineering before World War I," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9, pages 65-86, 02.
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