Mitigating 'Anticommons' Harms to Research in Science and Technology

UNU-MERIT Working Paper No. 2011-001

Analysis and Debate of Intellectual Property Issues, Forthcoming

23 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011

See all articles by Paul A. David

Paul A. David

Stanford University - Department of Economics; University of Oxford - All Souls College; UNU-MERIT (Maastricht)

Date Written: December 6, 2010


There are three analytically distinct layers of the phenomenon that has been labeled 'the anticommons' and indicted as a potential impediment to innovation resulting from patenting and enforcement of IPR obtained on academic research results. This paper distinguishes among 'search costs', 'transactions costs', and 'multiple marginalization' effects in the pricing of licenses for commercial use of IP, and examines the distinctive resource allocation problems arising from each when exclusion rights over research inputs are distributed among independent owners. Where information use-rights are gross complements (either in production or consumption), multiple marginalization - seen here to be the core of the 'anticommons' - is likely to result in extreme forms of 'royalty stacking' that can pose serious impediments to R&D projects. The practical consequences, particularly for exploratory scientific research (contrasted with commercially-oriented R&D) are seen from a heuristic analysis of the effects of distributed ownership of scientific and technical database rights. A case is presented for the contractual construction of 'research resource commons' designed as efficient IPR pools, as the preferable response to the anticommons.

Keywords: anticommons, R&D, multiple marginalization, IPR licensing, patent hold-ups, royalty stacking, distributed scientific databases, copyright collections societies, contractual commons

JEL Classification: L24, O31, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

David, Paul A., Mitigating 'Anticommons' Harms to Research in Science and Technology (December 6, 2010). UNU-MERIT Working Paper No. 2011-001, Analysis and Debate of Intellectual Property Issues, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Paul A. David (Contact Author)

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