Knowledge Sharing Among Inventors: Some Historical Perspectives

REVOLUTIONIZING INNOVATION: USERS, COMMUNITIES AND OPEN INNOVATION, MIT Press, 2012

Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-51

LEM Working Paper 2011/21

17 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2011 Last revised: 4 Oct 2013

James E. Bessen

Boston University - School of Law; Research on Innovation

Alessandro Nuvolari

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM)

Date Written: October 14, 2011

Abstract

This chapter documents instances from past centuries where inventors freely shared knowledge of their innovations with other inventors. It is widely believed that such knowledge sharing is a recent development, as in Open Source Software. Our survey shows, instead, that innovators have long practiced “collective invention” at times, including inventions in such key technologies as steam engines, iron, steel, and textiles. Generally, innovator behavior was substantially richer than the heroic portrayal often found in textbooks and museums. Knowledge sharing promoted innovation, sometimes coexisting with patents, at other times, not, suggesting that policy should foster both knowledge sharing and invention incentives.

Keywords: technological change, knowledge sharing, collective invention, patents

JEL Classification: N70, O33, O34

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E. and Nuvolari, Alessandro, Knowledge Sharing Among Inventors: Some Historical Perspectives (October 14, 2011). REVOLUTIONIZING INNOVATION: USERS, COMMUNITIES AND OPEN INNOVATION, MIT Press, 2012; Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-51; LEM Working Paper 2011/21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1944201

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)

Alessandro Nuvolari

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM) ( email )

Piazza Martiri della Liberta', 33-I-56127
Pisa
Italy

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