To Join or Not to Join: Examining Patent Pool Participation and Rent Sharing Rules

40 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2006 Last revised: 4 Dec 2015

See all articles by Anne Layne-Farrar

Anne Layne-Farrar

Charles River Associates; Northwestern University

Josh Lerner

Harvard Business School - Finance Unit; Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 15, 2006


Much of the economic analysis on patent pools is theoretical, and nearly all of the models assume that participation is automatic - any firm with a relevant patent and an option to join a patent pool is assumed to do so. But allowing firms to opt out of patent pools is a far more realistic assumption, since all modern patent pools are voluntary. In this paper, we present empirical evidence on participation rates and the factors that drive the decision to join a pool. We also summarize the various profit sharing rules found in modern patent pools, and explore the consequences of the rule chosen. Understanding how these institutions form and grow is especially important since more and more standard setting efforts are leading to patent pools for licensing the intellectual property embedded in standards. We find that vertically integrated firms are more likely to join a patent pool and among those firms that do join, those with relatively symmetric patent contributions to a standard appear more likely to accept numeric patent share rules for dividing royalty earnings.

Keywords: Patent Pools, Standards Setting Organizations, Intellectual Property, Royalty Sharing

JEL Classification: L1, O3, K21, L41

Suggested Citation

Layne-Farrar, Anne and Lerner, Josh, To Join or Not to Join: Examining Patent Pool Participation and Rent Sharing Rules (November 15, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Anne Layne-Farrar (Contact Author)

Charles River Associates ( email )

1 South Wacker Drive
Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60606
United States
312-377-9238 (Phone)


Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Josh Lerner

Harvard Business School - Finance Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6065 (Phone)
617-496-7357 (Fax)


Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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