How Do Patents Affect Research Investments?

Posted: 14 Aug 2017

See all articles by Heidi L. Williams

Heidi L. Williams

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

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2017


Although 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 article, 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 that has attempted to empirically estimate these parameters.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Heidi L., How Do Patents Affect Research Investments? (August 2017). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 9, pp. 441-469, 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Heidi L. Williams (Contact Author)

MIT Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
(617) 324-4326 (Phone)
(617) 253-1330 (Fax)


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics