Patents and Innovation in Economic History

Posted: 18 Nov 2016

See all articles by Petra Moser

Petra Moser

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

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Date Written: October 2016


A strong tradition in economic history, which relies primarily 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 datasets 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 too strong, they have actually discouraged innovation. This review summarizes the major results from this research and presents open questions.

Suggested Citation

Moser, Petra, Patents and Innovation in Economic History (October 2016). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 8, pp. 241-258, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Petra Moser (Contact Author)

NYU Stern Department of Economics ( email )

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