Patents and Innovation in Economic History
37 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2016 Last revised: 8 Jul 2021
Date Written: February 2016
A strong tradition in economic history, which primarily relies on qualitative evidence and statistical correlations, has emphasized the importance of patents as a primary driver of innovation. Recent improvements in empirical methodology – through the creation of new data sets and advances in identification – have produced research that challenges this traditional view. The findings of this literature provide a more nuanced view of the effects of intellectual property, and suggest that when patent rights have been too broad or strong, they have actually discouraged innovation. This paper summarizes the major results from this research and presents open questions.
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