Thursday, October 19, 2006

Interesting New NBER Working Papers on IP

  1. Entry, Exit and Patenting in the Software Industry (Iain M. Cockburn, Megan J. MacGarvie)
  2. We examine the effects of software patents on entry and exit in 27 narrowly-defined classes of software products, using a dataset with comprehensive coverage of both mature public firms and small privately held firms between 1994 and 2004. Reflecting the complex economics underlying the relationship between patent protection, entry costs and industry structure, we find that patents have a mixture of effects on entry and exit. Controlling for firm and market characteristics, firms are less likely to enter product classes in which there are more software patents. However, all else equal, firms that hold software patents are more likely to enter these markets. The net effect on entry of increasing the number of software patents is difficult to measure precisely: estimates of the effect of an across-the-board 10% increase in patent holdings on the number of entrants into the average market in this sample range from -5% to +3.5%, with quite large standard errors. Evidence on exit and survival is consistent with these findings - holding patents appears to enhance the survival prospects of firms after entering a market.
  3. Intellectual Property and Marketing ( Darius Lakdawalla, Tomas Philipson, Y. Richard Wang)
  4. Patent protection spurs innovation by raising the rewards for research, but it usually results in less desirable allocations after the innovation has been discovered. In effect, patents reward inventors with inefficient monopoly power. However, previous analysis of intellectual property has focused only on the costs patents impose by restricting price-competition. We analyze the potentially important but overlooked role played by competition on dimensions other than price. Compared to a patent monopoly, competitive firms may engage in inefficient levels of non-price competition—such as marketing—when these activities confer benefits on competitors. Patent monopolies may thus price less efficiently, but market more efficiently than competitive firms. We measure the empirical importance of this issue, using patent-expiration data for the US pharmaceutical industry from 1990 to 2003. Contrary to what is predicted by price competition alone, we find that patent expirations actually have a negative effect on output for the first year after expiration. This results from the reduction in marketing effort, which offsets the reduction in price. The short-run decline in output costs consumers at least $400,000 per month, for each drug. In the long-run, however, expirations do raise output, but the value of expiration to consumers is about 15% lower than would be predicted by a model that considers price-competition alone, without marketing effort. The non-standard effects introduced by non-price competition alter the analysis of patents’ welfare effects.

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