The patent system plays two roles in promoting innovation: (1) protecting inventions from imitation during a limited time, thereby promoting R&D and commercialization and (2) disclosing useful technological information to the public and facilitating technological knowledge diffusion, thereby reducing duplicative R&D activities and reducing information asymmetries. Prior empirical research on the patent system is heavily concentrated on the first role, and while a significant body of theoretical research has examined the disclosure function, corresponding empirical research is very limited. This session collects together and reports upon new empirical research addressing the disclosure function and its economic implications.
The session will cover not only the disclosure of the invention (technical information) and the application document (legal information) during the patenting process, but also the relevant prior art (limitations and breadth information). Research topics include applicant incentives for early disclosure, the effects of introducing pre-grant publications in the US on the innovation process, and characteristics of inventors and firms related to information disclosure in patent documents. The panelists (Graham, Harhoff, Nagaoka and Okada) will discuss the implications of the several studies presented, and provide an opportunity for interaction and questions from the audience.