2,676 research outputs found

    Economics and the design of patent systems

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    The author uses intuition derived from several of his research papers to make three points. First, in the absence of a common law balancing test, application of uniform patentability criteria favors some industries over others. Policymakers must decide the optimal tradeoff across industries. Second, if patent rights are not closely related to the underlying inventions, more patenting may reduce R&D in industries that are both R&D and patent intensive. Third, for reasons largely unrelated to intellectual property, the U.S. private innovation system has become far more decentralized than it was a generation ago. It is reasonable to inquire whether a patent system that worked well in an era of more centralized innovation functions as well for the more decentralized environment of today.

    Matching externalities and inventive productivity

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    This paper generalizes and extends the labor market search and matching model of Berliant, Reed, and Wang (2006). In this model, the density of cities is determined endogenously, but the matching process becomes more efficient as density increases. As a result, workers become more selective in their matches, and this raises average productivity (the intensive margin). Despite being more selective, the search process is more rapid so that workers spend more time in productive matches (the extensive margin). The effect of an exogenous increase in land area on productivity depends on the sensitivity of the matching function and congestion costs to changes in density.

    Patentability, industry structure, and innovation.

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    To qualify for a patent, an invention must be new, useful, and nonobvious. This paper presents a model of sequential innovation in which industry structure is endogenous and a standard of patentability determines the proportion of all inventions that qualify for protection. There is a unique patentability standard, or inventive step, that maximizes the rate of innovation by maximizing the number of firms engaged in R&D. Surprisingly, this standard is more stringent for industries disposed to innovate rapidly. If a single standard is applied to heterogeneous industries, it will encourage entry, and therefore innovation, in some industries while discouraging it in others. The model suggest a number of important implications for patent policy.Patents ; Industries

    The development and regulation of consumer credit reporting in America

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    In the United States today, there is at least one credit bureau file, and probably three, for every credit-using individual in the country. Over 2 billion items of information are added to these files every month, and over 2 million credit reports are issued every day. Real-time access to credit bureau information has reduced the time required to approve a loan from a few weeks to just a few minutes. But credit bureaus have also been criticized for furnishing erroneous information and for compromising privacy. The result has been 30 years of regulation at the state and federal levels. ; This paper describes how the consumer credit reporting industry evolved from a few joint ventures of local retailers around 1900 to a high technology industry that plays a supporting role in America's trillion dollar consumer credit market. In many ways the development of the industry reflects the intuition developed in the theoretical literature on information-sharing arrangements. But the story is richer than the models. Credit bureaus have changed as retail and lending markets changed, and the impressive gains in productivity at credit bureaus are the result of their substantial investments in technology. ; Credit bureaus obviously benefit when their data are more reliable, but should we expect them to attain the socially efficient degree of accuracy? There are plausible reasons to think not, and this is the principal economic rationale for regulating the industry. An examination of the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act reveals an attempt to attain an appropriate economic balancing of the benefits of a voluntary information sharing arrangement against the cost of any resulting mistakes.Consumer credit

    You can patent that? Are patents on computer programs and business methods good for the new economy?

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    In other parts of the economy, firms are increasingly turning to patents to protect not just physical inventions but more abstract ones such as computer programs or ways of doing business. Just two decades ago such patents would have been impossible to obtain, let alone enforce. In "You Can Patent That? Are Patents on Computer Programs and Business Methods Good for the New Economy?" Bob Hunt describes the changes in patent law that have given rise to this phenomenon.Patents ; Computers

    What's in the file? The economics and law of consumer credit bureaus.

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    In "What's in the File? The Economics and Law of Consumer Credit Bureaus," author Bob Hunt points out that lenders in the United States have voluntarily shared information about their customers - through credit bureaus - for nearly a century. Hunt explains how sharing information about consumers' indebtedness and payment histories can benefit both consumers and lenders. These benefits depend, however, on the accuracy of the information reported and the care taken to ensure that information is disclosed only when appropriate. Hunt also describes the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which attempts to address these concerns. He closes by reviewing a number of challenges consumer credit bureaus may face in the early years of this new century. ; Also issued as Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 02-06Credit bureaus ; Consumer credit

    Ten years after: What are the effects of business method patents in financial services?

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    In recent years, the courts have determined that business methods can be patented, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted some 12,000 patents of this sort. Has the availability of patents for business methods increased the rate of innovation in the U.S. financial sector? The available evidence suggests that there has been no significant change in the aggregate trend of R&D investments made by financial firms. In "Ten Years After: What Are the Effects of Business Method Patents in Financial Services?," Bob Hunt discusses how recent court decisions and proposed federal legislation may change how firms enforce their patents. In addition, he outlines some of the remaining challenges that business method patents pose for financial companies.Patents

    Business method patents and U.S. financial services

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    A decade after the State Street decision, more than 1,000 business method patents are granted each year. Yet only one in ten are obtained by a financial institution. Most business method patents are also software patents. ; Have these patents increased innovation in financial services? To address this question the author constructs new indicators of R&D intensity based on the occupational composition of financial industries. The financial sector appears more research intensive than official statistics would suggest but less than the private economy taken as a whole. There is considerable variation across industries but little apparent trend. There does not appear to be an obvious effect from business method patents on the sector’s research intensity. ; This working paper supersedes Working Paper No. 07-21 and Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 07-10 ; Also issued as Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 08-05Patents ; Financial services industry

    Whither consumer credit counseling?

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    Bob Hunt outlines the history of credit counseling in the U.S. He also observes that, despite its long track record, the credit counseling industry is not without controversy. For example, in recent years, concerns about conflicts of interest and the emergence of a new type of credit counseling agency have triggered significant legislative and regulatory activity. Hunt notes that there is evidence that credit counseling organizations are effective in helping some consumers. However, he points out that the lack of formal research in this area makes it difficult to interpret information and a lot more research needs to be done before we can reach any definitive conclusions. ; Also issued as Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 05-22Credit counseling

    An introduction to the economics of payment card networks

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    Open payment card networks typically coordinate the activities of thousands of financial institutions that issue cards, millions of retail locations that accept them, and several hundred million consumers that use them. This coordination can include the collective setting of certain prices and other controversial network rules. Such practices have recently come under the scrutiny of antitrust authorities in the U.S. and abroad. This paper provides a brief overview of the economics of the payment card industry, explaining some of the differences from the textbook model of competitive markets. Such differences are important factors for the antitrust analysis of payment card networks. ; Also issued as Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper No. 03-08Payment systems
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