Innovation and Patents
Book chapter prepared for Louis Cain, Price Fishback, and Paul Rhode (editors) Oxford Handbook of Economic History, Forthcoming
28 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 30, 2014
This chapter summarizes historical evidence on the link between patent laws and innovation. Earlier historical analyses have emphasized the importance of patent laws in encouraging innovation. Data on exhibits at international technology fairs, such as the 1851 Crystal Palace world’s fair, however, indicate that only a small share of innovations are patented and that non-patent mechanisms may play an important role in encouraging innovation. They also show that inventors’ dependency on patents varies strongly across industries, so that radical changes in patent laws may influence the direction if not the level of technical change. Exhibition data also indicate that patents may play an important role in facilitating encouraging the diffusion of innovative activity by encouraging inventors to advertise their ideas. These results highlight the need for additional analyses of innovation that systematically analyze patents and alternative measures of innovation.
Keywords: Patents, innovation, fairs, exhibitions, technical change.
JEL Classification: K11, O31, O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation