Anticommons and optimal patent policy in a model of sequential innovation
We present a model of sequential innovation in which an innovator uses several research inputs to invent a new good. These inputs, in turn, must be invented before they can be used by the final innovator. As a consequence, the degree of patent protection affects the revenues and cost of the innovator, but also determines the incentives to invent the research inputs in the first place. We study the effects of increases in the number of required inputs on innovation activity and optimal patent policy. We find that the probability of introducing the final innovation decreases (increases) as the number of inputs increases when inputs are complements (substitutes). We also find that the optimal strength of patents on research inputs is increasing in the degree of substitution between the inputs, but decreasing in the number of inputs for any degree of substitution.
When innovation is sequential, the development of new products depends on the access to previous discoveries. As a consequence the patent system affects both the revenues and the cost of the innovator. We construct a model of sequential innovation in which an innovator uses n patented inputs in R&D to invent a new product. We ask three questions: (i) what is the net effect of patents on innovation as technologies become more complex (n increases)? (ii) are patent pools welfare enhancing? (iii) what is the optimal response of patent policy as technological complexity increases? We find that the answers to these questions depend on the degree of complementarity and substitutability between the inputs used in research.
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