Pledging Patents for the Public Good: Rise and Fall of the Eco-Patent Commons

49 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2019 Last revised: 6 Nov 2019

See all articles by Jorge L. Contreras

Jorge L. Contreras

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Bronwyn H. Hall

University of California at Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS); Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Christian Helmers

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business; Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Date Written: October 8, 2019

Abstract

Commons and pledge structures have been used to achieve various goals of patent holders, including the advancement of social and philanthropic aims. The article analyzes the formation and structure of a widely acclaimed effort to pool patents for the promotion of green/clean technologies – the Eco-Patent Commons (EcoPC) – as well as its actual impact on technology diffusion and the factors leading to its demise in 2016. We combine quantitative econometric techniques with qualitative interviews to paint the most complete picture of this innovative and ambitious effort to date. Our quantitative results show that the patents contributed to the EcoPC were, on average, less cited than comparable patents, and that the contribution of these patents to the EcoPC did not increase their rates of citation. Moreover, there is no evidence that the availability of these patents through the EcoPC increased the diffusion of pledged inventions. Our interviews revealed significant structural and organizational issues that limited both the attractiveness of the EcoPC to new participants and its value to potential users of pledged technology. Our findings have implications for the effectiveness of patent commons in enabling the diffusion of patented technologies more broadly.

Keywords: patent, commons, green technology, eco-patent commons

JEL Classification: O13, O34, Q55

Suggested Citation

Contreras, Jorge L. and Hall, Bronwyn H. and Helmers, Christian, Pledging Patents for the Public Good: Rise and Fall of the Eco-Patent Commons (October 8, 2019). Houston Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 1, 2019; University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 332. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3466156

Jorge L. Contreras (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

Bronwyn H. Hall

University of California at Berkeley ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

HOME PAGE: http://emlab.berkeley.edu/users/bhhall/index.html

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

7 Ridgmount Street
London, WC1E 7AE
United Kingdom

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Marstallplatz 1
Munich, Bayern 80539
Germany

Christian Helmers

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid ( email )

CL. de Madrid 126
Madrid, Madrid 28903
Spain

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