NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Patents and Innovation in Economic History

Petra Moser

NBER Working Paper No. 21964
Issued in February 2016
NBER Program(s):DAE, LE, PR

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

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21964

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