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How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs


Petra Moser


Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

August 2003

NBER Working Paper No. w9909

Abstract:     
This paper introduces a new internationally comparable data set that permits an empirical investigation of the effects of patent law on innovation. The data have been constructed from the catalogues of two 19th century world fairs: the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, 1851, and the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, 1876. They include innovations that were not patented, as well as those that were, and innovations from countries both with and without patent laws. I find no evidence that patent laws increased levels of innovative activity but strong evidence that patent systems influenced the distribution of innovative activity across industries. Inventors in countries without patent laws concentrated in industries where secrecy was effective relative to patents, e.g., food processing and scientific instruments. These results suggest that introducing strong and effective patent laws in countries without patents may have stronger effects on changing the direction of innovative activity than on raising the number of innovations.

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Date posted: August 25, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Moser, Petra, How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from Nineteenth-Century World Fairs (August 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9909. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=435483

Contact Information

Petra Moser (Contact Author)
Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )
Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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