Of Patents and Property

11 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2009  

James E. Bessen

Boston University - School of Law; Research on Innovation

Michael J. Meurer

Boston University - School of Law

Abstract

Do patents behave substantially like property rights in tangible assets, in that they encourage development and innovation? This article notes that historical evidence, cross-country evidence, economic experiments, and estimates of net benefits all indicate that general property rights institutions have a substantial direct effect on economic growth. Conversely, with a few important exceptions like chemicals and pharmaceuticals, empirical evidence indicates that intellectual property rights have at best only a weak and indirect effect on economic growth. Further, it appears that for public firms in most industries today, patents may actually discourage investment in innovation for fear of winding up on the losing side of a patent fight, and routine injunctive relief from patent protection may contribute to this problem.

Keywords: property, intellectual property, property rights, patent, property law, patent law, Industrial Revolution, economic growth, natural economic experiments, Eastern European economies, Eastern European transition, free-riders, generic drug

JEL Classification: D2, D23, D4, K1, K11, L65, 014, 012, 016, 03, 031, 032, 034, P51

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E. and Meurer, Michael J., Of Patents and Property. Regulation, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter 2008-2009; Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1341201

James E. Bessen (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Research on Innovation ( email )

202 High Head Rd.
Harpswell, ME 04079
United States
617-531-2092 (Phone)

Michael J. Meurer

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-6292 (Phone)
617-353-3077 (Fax)

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