How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from 19th-Century World Fairs

Posted: 1 Dec 2009

See all articles by Petra Moser

Petra Moser

NYU Stern Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: 2004


Previous studies have tended to focus on theeffect that patent laws have on number of innovations, ignoring the effect thatpatent laws have on technological change. Here, a data set of 15,000innovations at two World's Fairs--the London Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876--is used to examine theeffects of patent laws on technological change. Results indicate that patent laws directly influence innovative activity. Alack of patent laws in nineteenth-century Britain led inventors to focus onindustries for which secrecy was an effective alternative to protection by thelaw. Thus, inventors avoided innovations in the manufacturing and machineryindustries. The decision by the United States to adopt patent laws at the beginning ofthe nineteenth century may have played an important role in encouragingAmerican inventors to focus on the manufacturing and machinery industries,pushing technological innovation. The same positive effect may be observed fordeveloping countries today if technologies are encouraged that differ fromthose invented in developed countries. (LKB)

Keywords: Patent law, Inventors, Technology innovation, Inventions, Trade secrets, Intellectual property, Competitive advantages

Suggested Citation

Moser, Petra, How Do Patent Laws Influence Innovation? Evidence from 19th-Century World Fairs (2004). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Petra Moser (Contact Author)

NYU Stern Department of Economics ( email )

44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics