The impact of international patent systems: Evidence from accession to the European Patent Convention

Authors: Bronwyn Hall (University of California, Berkeley) and Christian Helmers (Santa Clara University)

The introduction of the European unitary patent presents firms with a new alternative for protecting their intellectual property, one that offers international protection rather than a set of choices for national protection. Although in principle such an option offers a lower cost and simplified system for firms desiring widespread coverage, some have critiqued the introduction as disadvantaging smaller firms in less-developed economies. To shed some light on this subject, we study the accession of 12 transition and emerging market countries to the European Patent Convention (EPC), those who joined between 2000 and 2008. We use firm-level data to explore the impact of the accession on patenting behavior by firms in those countries. The focus is on the differential behavior of foreign and domestic firms faced with a new choice of international versus national-level patenting. We examine the extent to which (a) domestic entities file fewer patent applications with the national office and more with the EPO, (b) more domestic entities obtain patent protection domestically, (c) fewer foreign entities apply for patent protection with the national office and obtain instead an EPO patent, (d) more foreign entities obtain patent protection in the country by validating an EPO patent in the country.

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