Although university patenting has increased dramatically over the past three decades, debates persist regarding the broad economic implications of the phenomenon. This article examines the social welfare implications of university patenting in a model of R&D competition in which firms develop innovations on the basis of the disclosure of a university invention. When such disclosure does not preempt the patenting of downstream innovations, university patenting enhances social welfare only if a regime of open access to university inventions is characterized by excessive aggregate R&D from the viewpoint of social welfare. When the university invention disclosure preempts patenting on firms' innovations, the nature of the open access equilibrium in the R&D market depends on the threat of imitation ex post. Only when the threat of imitation is sufficiently strong firms will not invest in downstream R&D in the open access regime. In this case, university patenting promotes R&D investment and increases social welfare.University patents, R&D competition, Licensing,
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