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Monday, 20 February 2012

Katonomics 13: a tribute to Mark Rogers

In this, the final post in the second series of Katonomics, our Katonomist-in-Chief Nicola Searle looks at the very special contribution to the economics of IP made by Mark Rogers, who sadly died last year when still in the full bloom of academic vigour. Doctor Nic writes:
"In 2011, the UK lost one of its top IP economists. After a long-term illness, Mark Rogers passed away in July of last year. I would like to take this special edition of Katonomics to take a look at Mark’s contribution to the economics of IP. 
Like many IP economists, Mark’s research interests spanned IP, economic growth, productivity and innovation. Unlike many IP economists, Mark contributed to the study of copyright and was a proponent of the research of neglected areas of economics of IP. As we move further into the digital age, Mark’s observation that there is a lack of economic study of copyright is all too true. 
Mark was particularly devoted to the empirical research of IP. He, with colleagues, developed the Oxford Firm-Level Intellectual Property Database (OFLIP). The database is the first to track patent and trade mark activity for all UK businesses from 2000-2007. This represents a valuable contribution to the study of IP as such data is difficult to obtain

Mark's extensive list of publications reflects the breadth and depth of his scholarship. With Christine Greenhalgh he co-authored the excellent Innovation, Intellectual Property and Economic Growth textbook. For IPKat readers, I have selected three of his popular IP papers (by downloads and citations) to discuss. 
Mark’s Economics of Copyright paper, with Ray Corrigan set forth the economic structure of copyright. I was unable to access this paper, but the abstract notes, 
“While economics provides a powerful conceptual framework for understanding the trade-offs involved, the paper argues that our empirical knowledge base is very weak. Much more empirical analysis is needed to understand the impacts of changes to copyright legislation. Without such analysis, policy and legal debates will continue to be based largely on anecdote and rhetoric.” 
That was written in 2005 and, unfortunately, still rings true (readers may be interested in Mark’s 2010 paper for Consumer Focus which examines the economics of copyright exceptions). 
With Derek Bosworth, Mark wrote a paper analysing how R&D and IP affects the value of large Australian firms. Typically, investment increases a firm’s value. Investment in tangible assets, such as buildings and machines, has a fairly direct impact on a firm’s value. However, the benefits from investment in intangible assets, such as IP, are less obvious. Using data on the market value of Australian firms, the authors found returns from investment in tangible assets are less than double the return to investment in intangible assets. This is important for two reasons. First, it is slightly lower than other national returns, which suggests that Australian R&D is undervalued. Secondly, it confirms the importance of valuing investment in intangible assets on balance sheets. 

Mark’s 2004 paper on Networks, Firm Size and Innovation is also popular. Using a regression analysis, a mathematical technique which examines relationships in data, Mark examined the relationship between the size of the firm, the benefits of network and innovation. There are competing theories on how firm size and innovation interact. Either smaller, more agile firms are more innovative; or larger, better resourced firms are more innovative (this keeps economists awake at night).  Networks are associated with increased innovation as networking allows access to external knowledge. Mark used patent intensity, which he defined as number of patent applications per billion dollars revenue, to account for the technological nature of the industry. 

Mark’s findings are surprising. He found that, for smaller firms in the manufacturing industry, networking is associated with increased innovation, but not for larger firms. However, for the non-manufacturing industries, only medium and large sized firms had increased innovation with networking. This adds a layer of nuance to the firm size and innovation debate. As IP is a key tool for encouraging innovation, understanding how firms innovate is important. Mark noted, “the results give the impression of a general failure of the innovation models discussed [in his paper.]” Again, Mark challenged existing assumptions and encourage his fellow economists to further research these areas. 
Mark’s appreciation of the state of economic research on IP, anticipation of the future need for research and his long research record contributed to his reputation as a top IP economist. His call for improved empirical research of all aspects of IP, particularly copyright, presents a goal for economists. 
Mark held affiliations with Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford, Aston Business School at Aston University and Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. He received his PhD in Economics in 1997 from Australian National University, a Masters from Warwick University and an undergraduate degree from London School of Economics. 

On a personal note, I only had the pleasure of meeting Mark once, at an EPIP conference. He struck me as a very nice man as he patiently listened to, and encouraged, an excited PhD student. Indeed, his colleagues are dedicating a special edition of Oxford Economic Papers, where Mark was an Associate Editor, in his memory".

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