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The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995

Bronwyn H. Hall and Rosemarie Ham Ziedonis
The RAND Journal of Economics
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 101-128
Published by: Wiley on behalf of RAND Corporation
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2696400
Page Count: 28
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The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995
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Abstract

We examine the patenting behavior of firms in an industry characterized by rapid technological change and cumulative innovation. Recent survey evidence suggests that semiconductor firms do not rely heavily on patents to appropriate returns to R&D. Yet the propensity of semiconductor firms to patent has risen dramatically since the mid-1980s. We explore this apparent paradox by conducting interviews with industry representatives and analyzing the patenting behavior of 95 U.S. semiconductor firms during 1979-1995. The results suggest that the 1980s strengthening of U.S. patent rights spawned "patent portfolio races" among capital-intensive firms, but it also facilitated entry by specialized design firms.

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