Friday, May 16, 2008

Does Petra Moser show patents encourage successful innovation?

The work of Petra Moser on patents was summarized by LIOR JACOB STRAHILEVITZ in 116 Yale L.J. 1472, 1481-2 (2007):

MIT's Petra Moser, for example, has examined the diffusion of innovations during the nineteenth century in two recent papers. Her 2005 paper in the American Economic Review studied the innovations that were highlighted at the 1851 and 1876 World's Fairs. n31 She concluded that in nations without patent laws - such as Switzerland and Denmark in 1851, and Switzerland and Holland in 1876 - there was little innovation in industries like manufacturing and agricultural machinery, in which trade secrecy is a poor substitute for patent protection, and more innovation in industries like food processing and scientific instruments, in which trade secrets do provide a relatively effective means for maintaining a monopoly on innovation. n32 Thus, patent protections do seem to encourage successful innovation. A related paper suggested that in British industries in which firms relied heavily on patent protection, innovations were more geographically dispersed than in those industries in which patent protection was unavailable or not often sought. n33 On the basis of these data, Moser concluded that strong patent protections served an information-forcing purpose and enhanced socially desirable knowledge spillover across England. n34


n31. Petra Moser, How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World's Fairs, 95 Am. Econ. Rev. 1214 (2005).

n32. See id. at 1231-32.

n33. See Petra Moser, Do Patent Laws Help To Diffuse Innovations? Evidence from the Geographic Localization of Innovation and Production in 19th-Century England (July 10, 2005),

Frischmann and Lemley [107 Colum. L. Rev. 257 (2007)] consider Moser's analysis to reflect the state of things before the modern era:

For a discussion of how inventions disseminated before the modern era, see generally Petra Moser, How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs (Nat'l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. W9909, 2003), available at id=435483 (on file with the Columbia Law Review).

Mann writes in 20 Harv. J. Law & Tec 1 (2006):

Recent literature on the relation between IP and industrial organization provides a strong theoretical basis n130

footnote 130: See Petra Moser, How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs, 95 AM. ECON. REV. 1215 (2005) (reporting empirical evidence that stronger IP systems influence the direction of innovation). The recent history of the software industry, which has seen a great deal of innovation as software patents have become easier to obtain, illustrates this contention.

IPBiz query: does anybody cite check (or think) at Harvard Journal of Law & Technology [JOLT]?


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