How Do Patents Affect Research Investments?

35 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017

See all articles by Heidi L. Williams

Heidi L. Williams

MIT Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: January 2017


While patent systems have been widely used both historically and internationally, there is nonetheless a tremendous amount of controversy over whether patent systems – in practice – improve the alignment between private returns and social contributions. In this paper, I describe three parameters – how the disclosure function affects research investments, how patent strength affects research investments in new technologies, and how patents on existing technologies affect follow-on innovation – needed to inform the question of how patents affect research investments, and review the available evidence which has attempted to empirically estimate these parameters.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Heidi L., How Do Patents Affect Research Investments? (January 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23088, Available at SSRN:

Heidi L. Williams (Contact Author)

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