In this provocative paper, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine question the fundamental assumptions underlying the economic theory used to support intellectual property systems.

Do "stronger" patents increase innovation? Josh Lerner conducts an extensive investigation of the impact of pro-patent-holder policy changes on rates of patenting and finds surprising results.

Bronwyn H. Hall provides a review of recent research, both theoretical and empirical, on the economic effects of the patent system. She does this to evaluate the likely effect of the recent U.S. extension of patent protection to business methods.

A key issue in evaluating the economic effect of patents is the measurement of patent quality. Evidence suggests that many patents are worth very little, but that a few are very valuable. Jean O. Lanjouw and Mark Schankerman look at one way of measuring patent quality. They examine the characteristics of those patents that firms find valuable enough to renew and to protect in court.

Dominique Guellec and Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie look at the same problem from a different angle. They explore the characteristics of patent applications that are associated with the probability that a patent will be granted (by the European Patent Office). These should be better quality inventions.

The next TIIP newsletter will be a special issue containing invited articles by leading researchers on "Patents, Pharmaceutical and the Third World."

--James Bessen, Editor

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