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Working Papers

September 2020, No. 20-11R

Idea Diffusion and Property Rights (Revised November 2023)

Boyan Jovanovic and Zhu Wang

We study innovation and diffusion of technology at the industry level. We derive an industry's evolution, from birth to its maturity, and we characterize how diffusion affects the incentive to innovate. The model implies that protection of innovators should be only partial due to the matching externality in the meetings in which idea transfers take place. The model also shows that enhancing idea diffusion is socially beneficial and can generate industry overtaking patterns endogenously. We fit the model to the early experiences of the U.S. automobile and personal computer industries and quantify the theoretical predictions.


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