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CEP discussion paper
Patents and Cumulative Innovation: Causal Evidence from the Courts
Alberto Galasso and Mark Schankerman
April 2013
Paper No' CEPDP1205:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: O33; O34; K41

Tags: patent rights; cumulative innovation; economics of innovation

Cumulative innovation is central to economic growth. Do patent rights facilitate or impede follow-on innovation? We study the causal effect of removing patent rights by court invalidation on subsequent research related to the focal patent, as measured by later citations. We exploit random allocation of judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to control for endogeneity of patent invalidation. Patent invalidation leads to a 50 percent increase in citations to the focal patent, on average, but the impact is heterogeneous and depends on characteristics of the bargaining environment. Patent rights block downstream innovation in computers, electronics and medical instruments, but not in drugs, chemicals or mechanical technologies. Moreover, the effect is entirely driven by invalidation of patents owned by large patentees that triggers more follow-on innovation by small firms.

Patents and Cumulative Innovation: Causal Evidence from the Courts, Alberto Galasso and Mark Schankerman, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), February 2015.