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Comment I: Public Goods and Public Science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2010

Eric Maskin
Affiliation:
Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Keith E. Maskus
Affiliation:
University of Colorado, Boulder
Jerome H. Reichman
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

A major theme in Paul David's contribution to this volume is that the recent strengthening of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the United States and elsewhere is a worrying development. I certainly agree that the development is cause for concern, but perhaps some elaboration will help clarify just why it is so disturbing.

Let us focus on the supply side, that is, on the promotion of innovation, which, after all, is the primary justification for creating IPRs in the first place. Of course, strengthening property rights also affects consumers on the demand side. But if the rate of invention diminishes after a strengthening of IPRs, which I will argue is quite plausible, then the overall outcome is unambiguously negative, because these monopoly rights will drive up prices for the goods deriving from innovation.

As David observes, there are two major effects on innovation from making IPRs stronger. The direct effect is to encourage more invention. If I am going to be rewarded with a longer or broader patent whenever I discover something, I will have correspondingly more incentive to try to make such a discovery. However, the indirect effect is to deter innovation. If the property right you have to your invention is strengthened, you will then have more monopoly power over me if I try to use your invention to make one of my own. In other words, it will now be more expensive for me to innovate, and so I have less incentive to do it.

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  • Comment I: Public Goods and Public Science
    • By Eric Maskin, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
  • Edited by Keith E. Maskus, University of Colorado, Boulder, Jerome H. Reichman, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Book: International Public Goods and Transfer of Technology Under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime
  • Online publication: 05 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494529.008
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  • Comment I: Public Goods and Public Science
    • By Eric Maskin, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
  • Edited by Keith E. Maskus, University of Colorado, Boulder, Jerome H. Reichman, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Book: International Public Goods and Transfer of Technology Under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime
  • Online publication: 05 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494529.008
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Comment I: Public Goods and Public Science
    • By Eric Maskin, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
  • Edited by Keith E. Maskus, University of Colorado, Boulder, Jerome H. Reichman, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Book: International Public Goods and Transfer of Technology Under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime
  • Online publication: 05 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494529.008
Available formats
×