State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Patents Cause Economic Growth: Another Academic Study Shows

Two Singapore professor show patents result in significant economic growth.  Their paper, Patent Rights and Economic Growth: Evidence from Cross-Country Panels of Manufacturing Industries concludes “the effect of strengthening patent rights on economic growth was substantial in economic terms.” P. 16

In the abstract of the paper, they conclude:

Our results have important implications for public policy. One is that patent laws and their enforcement matter for economic growth. However, our findings also suggest that patent rights vary by country and industry. We show that patent rights have a smaller impact on economic growth in poorer countries and in less patent-intensive industries. Since patent intensive industries account for a smaller share of the economies of the poorer countries, our results imply that the welfare gain in terms of economic growth for these countries is more likely to be outweighed by the welfare loss due to lower end-usage, and hence, tip the balance towards weaker rights being socially optimal.  Abstract

The paper’s conclusion with respect to “poorer” countries being better off with a weak patent system is pure conjecture and was not part of their study.  The reason that poor countries do not see a big boost by having stronger patent laws is: 1) poor countries are technologically backward and can advance economically by copying (purchasing) existing non-patented technologies, and 2) poor countries have poor property rights systems diminishing the effectiveness of their patent systems.  A poor country is poor because of its low level of technology.  Just raising a poor countries level of technology to the same level as the United States twenty years ago would result in huge economic gains.  The reason poor countries have a lower level of technology is because they have weak property right systems that results in under investment in technology (Capital Spending).  The paper hints at this point:

Our patent rights index depended on an assumption that enforcement of patent rights was correlated with enforcement of property rights in general, as measured by the Fraser index (The Fraser Institute does a study of economic freedom for all countries once a year). P. 10

In Figure 1, we plotted the Fraser index against the GP index (Patent Strength) scaled up by a factor of two.  The two indices were highly correlated. P. 10

In other words, there is a strong correlation between the strength of property rights in general with the strength of a patent system in a country. This should not be surprising since patents are property rights in inventions.  If you did a study of arbitrary government grants or monopolies versus the strength of patents in countries, you would find they are highly uncorrelated.  Despite the nonsense that suggests that patents are monopolies.

Another interesting point in the paper:

Among 15 Western countries over several centuries, enactment of patent law was associated with higher rates of scientific discoveries, inventions, and innovations.

Hu , Albert G.Z. and Png , I.P.L., Patent Rights and Economic Growth: Evidence from Cross-Country Panels of Manufacturing Industries, August, 2010.



October 21, 2011 - Posted by | -Economics, -Philosophy, Innovation, Patents | , , , ,

1 Comment »

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