Experimentation, Patents, and Innovation

Experimentation, Patents, and Innovation

By
Daron Acemoglu, Kostas Bimpikis, Asuman Ozdaglar
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics. February
2011, Vol. 3, Issue 1, Pages 37-77

This paper studies a simple model of experimentation and innovation. Our analysis suggests that patents improve the allocation of resources by encouraging rapid experimentation and efficient ex post transfer of knowledge. Each firm receives a signal on the success probability of a project and decides when to experiment. Successes can be copied. First, we assume that signal qualities are the same. Symmetric equilibria involve delayed and staggered experimentation, whereas the optimal allocation never involves delays and may involve simultaneous experimentation. Appropriately designed patents implement the optimal allocation. Finally, we discuss the case when signals differ and are private information.