Working Paper BETA #2014-02

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Title : Patents and innovation : Are the brakes broken, or how to restore patents’ dynamic efficiency ?

Author(s) : Christian Le Bas, Julien Pénin

Abstract : The standard view of patents emphasizes their dynamic efficiency. It considers that, by providing firms with incentives to invest in R&D and to disclose their knowledge, patents encourage innovation and increase social welfare in the long run. Yet, a growing body of literature opposes this view and asks for patent reform or even for the abolition of the patent system. In this work, which reviews the most recent literature on patents, we show that patents can have a negative impact on the dynamics of innovation. This is not due to some intrinsic properties of the patent system but to some of its recent evolutions which mean that, nowadays, too many patents are granted and that patent information is bad. The combination of those two elements explains most of the problems induced by modern patent systems such as hold-up (patent trolls), anti-commons (royalty stacking), and high transaction costs in markets for technology. We conclude by showing that realistic reforms can solve those problems and ensure that the patent system becomes again an instrument of dynamic efficiency.

Key-words : Incentives, Patent, innovation policy, hold-up, trolls, anti-commons, markets for technology.

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