IP, economics and the rest of the world: it's all happening!

Herding Kats is easy --
but teaching them
economics requires
real magic  ...
In "The Economic Impact of IP: whatever happened to the rest of the world?" (here) this member of the IPKat team observed that, for good or ill, the world of intellectual property economics was dominated by the models, the writings, the arguments and the data of United States economists.  This led the Kat to ask some questions: where were the IP economists from Europe and beyond? Indeed, who are they -- since the US economists are practically household words? Why do "definitive" collections of writings on the economics of IP appear to contain only the work of United States economists? Can it be assumed that IP in the European Union works the same way as in the United States, where legal and factual conditions are different? And if legislators in Europe listen more to economists than to lawyers when it comes to formulating IP policy, shouldn't we at least know more about the economists on our own doorstep?

Following this post, the IPKat received a very large number of emails, many of them from economists who either didn't read or understand what he had written in the first place. He didn't say that there were no IP economists outside the United States. Nor did he say that the non-US IP economists weren't any good.  What he said was that their work is poorly publicised to the point that even most people in Europe and beyond don't know who they are.  The low profile of European IP economists on the internet can be easily proved.  While an internet search of any leading US IP economist will produce a very large number of search hits, only one of the European scholars suggested to me by my correspondents  -- Dietmar Harthoff (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) -- scored more hits than Merpel who is, if readers need reminding just a fictional cat who provides occasional comments on this weblog.  Incidentally, an email was also received from an international publishing house of some repute which said that it would like to investigate further the possibility of publishing works of European IP economists if “a case can be made for them”, which suggests that, as yet, the case remains to be made.

Two junior academic economists at British universities wrote to thank the Kat for raising the issue. One wrote:
“If you think there are few Economics of IP scholars in Europe, there are even fewer Economics of Copyright scholars. Nearly all of the economics work focuses on patents. Copyright and trademark papers are few. I often find myself looking to business and management scholars for non-patent research”. 
It was also observed that it is far easier to procure relevant data in the US and that many law schools in the US accommodate economists within their teaching ranks – both of which make it easier for IP economists to practise their discipline and communicate it to IP lawyers in the US than elsewhere.

One correspondent from the United States, writing from a small law firm, commented:
"What a spectacularly common sense idea. ... It just seems like a no-brainer to grant-fund a global study on the subject. Perhaps linking university departments in the major IP states and having them all contribute. Thank you for highlighting something many of us have been thinking about for a long time".

There was institutional support for the IPKat too. Nathan Wajsman (Chief Economist, Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market) wrote:
Nobel: reserved for US economists?
" ...the bottom line is this: economics is a profession completely dominated by people from the US and to a lesser extent the UK. This is true for the discipline as a whole, and of course true for the study of economics of IP as well. There are many factors behind this, not least the excellence of American and British universities and the use of the English language. Interestingly enough, regarding this last point there was an interesting article in The Economist a few months ago pointing out that today, economists from non-English speaking countries (even, horrors, France) overwhelmingly publish in English, which means, paradoxically, that the dominance of the English-speaking countries is diminishing (as measured by journal articles, citations etc.), since a German researcher now has much easier access to the work of a French or Italian colleague, as both use the lingua franca of our profession. ...
Another statistic: of the 69 Nobel Prize winners in Economics since the prize was instituted in 1969, 52 are Americans. And of the 17 who are from other countries, many did their work at American universities, for example Franco Modigliani (MIT) or Gerard Debreu (Berkeley)".
Some correspondents wrote to nominate significant European IP economists whose work, they felt, was meritorious in itself or at least deserved a wider appreciation within the intellectual property community.  Those named by more than one correspondent were (in alphabetical order):

  • Stephan Bechtold (here)
  • Ray Corrigan (here)
  • Alberto Franzoni (here)
  • Georg von Graevenitz (here and here)
  • Christine Greenhalgh (here)
  • Dominique Guellec (here)
  • Dietmar Harhoff (here)
  • Christian Helmers (here)
  • Mark Rogers (here, and see Call for Papers, below)
  • Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie (here)

A large number of economists received just one mention and are not listed here for reasons of space. This should be taken as a reflection of the unrepresentative nature of this weblog's readership rather than as a reflection on their repute as economists or on the quality of their work.

The IPKat notes the carefully-phrased disclaimers from some of those who were nominating the above, to the effect that a suggestion that their works should be better known and understood should not be taken as an endorsement of their views or conclusions.  Merpel rejoices at this, seeing that -- when it comes to disclaimers -- IP lawyers and IP economists do have something in common!

Collectively, the activities of European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) were highly praised, particularly its conferences which, one correspondent wrote, "start to go some way towards redressing the balance". Also mentioned was the International Max Planck Research School for Competition and Innovation (IMPS-CI). Beyond Europe, the working papers of  the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia (IPRIA) came in for praise, and the Kat was urged to search the APIN Asia Pacific Innovation Network too.

Some events came in for special mention too.  The Patent Statistics for Decision Makers (PATSTAT) conferences, the next of which will be held in the United States, are said to include useful pointers to the work of Japanese and Korean authors, and the work of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in creating a network of IP chief economists which extends beyond the OECD countries is commended too.  WIPO also has a seminar series on the economics of IP, which you can access here.

As a port of call or vital link in the network of IP economists, the United Kingdom's IPO’s chief economist Tony Clayton deserves a mention. One correspondent says: "he collects IP economists". If you want to be collected, or find out whom he has collected, you can email him at Tony.Clayton@ipo.gov.uk

Among the many good folk who responded to the IPKat's original post, he'd to give particular thanks to the following: Christine Greenhalgh (Professor of Applied Economics (Emeritus), Department of Economics, University of Oxford), Esther van Zimmeren (Post-doctoral Research Fellow FWO, University of Leuven), Rodrigo Calvo de No (Cabinet Beau de Loménie), Trevor Cook (Bird & Bird), Mark Schweizer, Saskia Walzel (Consumer Focus), Michael James Vincenti (Stephens & Baugh, LLC), Nicola Searle (Institute for Arts, media and Computer Games at Abertay, associate researcher at the Institute for Capitalising on Creativity at the University of St Andrews School of Management), Roger Burt, Nathan Wajsman (Chief Economist, Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, OHIM), Marc Richter (OHIM), Sacha Wunsch-Vincent (Senior Economic Officer, Economics and Statistics Division, World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO), Erin-Michael Gill (Managing Director and Chief Intellectual Property Officer, MDB Capital Group LLC).

Call for papers. The IPKat is pleased to inform readers of the following call for papers:

Oxford Economic Papers Proposed Special Issue on 
Submission deadline: 31 January 2012 
In recent years the work of Mark Rogers, our former colleague and an editor of this journal, was focused in the field of innovation and intellectual property. His work made major contributions in areas such as the impact of R&D and patents, and the value of trade marks and copyright, within firms and economies. In his honour the Editors of Oxford Economic Papers invite submissions for a Special Issue of the journal on the topic of “Innovation and Intellectual Property” to be edited by Christine Greenhalgh (Oxford), Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College), and Christian Helmers (Carlos III, Madrid). 
Papers of between 8,000 and 10,000 words should be submitted by 31 January 2012. Final decisions will be taken in the autumn of 2012, with online pubication late in 2012. Print publication will be in 2013. 
Prospective authors should contact the journal administrator Liz Skalka (oep@economics.ox.ac.uk) to register their interest and obtain more information on how to submit their papers. 
While there has been much analysis of the role of R&D in generating innovation, particularly in larger firms, and of the use of patents to retain profits from investment in intangible assets, there are many neglected as well as new areas of research in this field and many unanswered questions of importance for economic policy. The guest editors are inviting authors to submit papers on issues such as
  • IP rights and alternative appropriation mechanisms 
  • Market structure, standards, and IP
  • Innovation subsidies
  • Markets for technology and the use of IP-protected knowledge by others
  • IP infringement and enforcement
  • The international dimensions of R&D and IP rights
For full details of the call for papers click here.

Sneak preview of what's coming soon ...

Nicola: keeping her eyes open
for gems of IP economics ...
Starting next week the IPKat will be hosting a series of posts, specially crafted by IP economist Nicola Searle, which will assist the blog's largely non-economist readership to gain a better understanding of current thought and activity in the field and which will also enrich our appreciation of the work done by some leading economists within Europe and elsewhere.
IP, economics and the rest of the world: it's all happening! IP, economics and the rest of the world: it's all happening! Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, November 01, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. For this IP transactional lawyer, economics seems to come up most frequently in relation to competition law aspects of transactions. When the most recent EU Technology Transfer Regulation was in gestation, rumour had it that the EU official responsible for the drafts was an economics expert but not an expert in IP transactions, and had to be educated about the realities of IP transactions. The first draft seemed to take a very "pure" economist approach, but by the time of the final version, some of the messy "tick box" approach of previous TT block exemptions had re-emerged. Whether or not this rumour was true, it would seem desirable that those responsible for IP competition policy should understand both economics and IP.

  2. "Another statistic: of the 69 Nobel Prize winners in Economics since the prize was instituted in 1969, 52 are Americans."

    I think many of them are immigrants. Anyway, IP is a concept promoted by Western businesses, so it's understandable that there are fewer IP scholars from Russia, Asia, Africa etc which are not traditionally capitalist societies. It's a bit like asking why China does not produce quality rugby players.

  3. From the ‘and beyond’ area:

    In the past it has been difficult for the non-economist interested reader to find suitable writings on the economics of copyright, as opposed to those IP areas that have registers (where you can count the registrations).

    a.I would refer you to the cultural economists:
    .Association for Cultural Economics International
    .these economists include:
    David Throsby, Macquarie University, Australia
    Ruth Towse, Erasmus University, Netherlands

    b.There is also a lot of work done in relation to the economic value of the copyright industries:

    Industry Economists: in copyright field (value of the copyright industries in Australia)
    Jeremy Thorpe, pwc Australia

    Many years ago I read a paper where the economist writing on IP discussed the main areas of IP, but excluded copyright. He said copyright was about ‘entertainment’ and therefore not worthy of coverage in the paper. Fortunately things have changed.


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