Findings

From idea to reality

Kevin Lewis

February 08, 2012

Appetite for destruction: The impact of the September 11 attacks on business founding

Srikanth Paruchuri & Paul Ingram
Industrial and Corporate Change, February 2012, Pages 127-149

Abstract:
It is widely accepted that entrepreneurial creation affects destruction, as new and better organizations, technologies and transactions replace old ones. This phenomenon is labeled creative destruction, but it might more accurately be called destructive creation, given the driving role of creation in the process. We reverse the typical causal ordering, and ask whether destruction may drive creation. We argue that economic systems may get stuck in suboptimal equilibria due to path dependence, and that destruction may sweep away this inertia, and open the way for entrepreneurship. To test this idea, we need an exogenous destructive shock, rather than destruction that is endogenous to the process of economic progress. Our identification strategy relies on the September 11 attacks as an exogenous destructive shock to the economic system centered on New York City. Consistent with our theoretical claim, we find that 15 months after the attacks the rate of business founding close to New York City exceeds the rate before the attacks, even after controlling for the inflow of recovery funds. Furthermore, the increase in the business founding rate after the attacks grows faster closer to Manhattan than it does further away from the epicenter of destruction.

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People and process, suits and innovators: Individuals and firm performance

Ethan Mollick
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Performance differences between firms are generally attributed to organizational factors rather than to differences among the individuals who make up firms. As a result, little is known about the part that individual firm members play in explaining the variance in performance among firms. This paper employs a multiple membership cross-classified multilevel model to test the degree to which organizational or individual factors explain firm performance. The analysis also examines whether individual differences among middle managers or innovators best explain firm performance variation. The results indicate that variation among individuals matter far more in organizational performance than is generally assumed. Further, variation among middle managers has a particularly large impact on firm performance, much larger than that of those individuals who are assigned innovative roles.

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Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship Revisited

Robert Fairlie & Harry Krashinsky
Review of Income and Wealth, forthcoming

Abstract:
The existence of liquidity constraints for entrepreneurs has been challenged by the finding that business entry rates are invariant throughout most of the asset distribution and increase dramatically only at the top of this distribution. We reexamine the liquidity constraint hypothesis in three ways. First, we separately examine those who do and those who do not experience a job loss to reveal generally increasing entry rates through the wealth distribution for both groups, and show why these groups should be separately analyzed. Second, we use a two-period simulation of the Evans and Jovanovic model to shows how exogenous wealth shocks can accurately identify the presence of liquidity constraints. Third, we provide new evidence from matched Current Population Survey data to show that housing appreciation measured at the MSA-level is a significantly positive determinant of entry into self-employment, after controlling for changes in local economic conditions.

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Patent Inflation

Jonathan Masur
Yale Law Journal, December 2011, Pages 470-532

Abstract:
For more than two decades, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and the Federal Circuit have exercised nearly complete institutional control over the patent system. Yet in recent years their stewardship has been widely criticized, largely on the basis of two particular failings. First, the PTO grants significant numbers of invalid patents, patents that impose substantial costs on innovative firms. And second, over time the Federal Circuit has steadily loosened the rules governing patentability, allowing ever more patents over a greater range of inventions. This Article argues that both of these modern trends may be attributable in whole or in part to the asymmetric institutional relationship between the PTO and the Federal Circuit. If a patent applicant is denied a patent by the PTO, she can appeal that denial to the Federal Circuit. However, if the PTO grants the patent, no other party has the right to appeal. Accordingly, the PTO can avoid appeals and reversals, both of which are costly in monetary and reputational terms, simply by granting any patent that the Federal Circuit might plausibly allow. Because the PTO will grant nearly any plausible patent, the vast majority of rejected applications that are appealed to the Federal Circuit will concern boundary-pushing inventions that are unpatentable under current law. Occasionally, a particularly patent-friendly panel of Federal Circuit judges will elect to reverse the PTO and grant a patent that the Agency has denied. The Federal Circuit's decision will create a new, inflationary precedent. The boundaries of patentability will expand slightly, as this new precedent exerts influence on the other circuit judges. And as the Federal Circuit's conception of what may be patented expands, the PTO will similarly inflate its own standards in order to maintain an adequate margin for error and avoid denying a patent that the Federal Circuit is likely to grant on appeal. Patent law will thus be subject to a natural inflationary pressure.

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The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians

George Borjas & Kirk Doran
NBER Working Paper, February 2012

Abstract:
It has been difficult to open up the black box of knowledge production. We use unique international data on the publications, citations, and affiliations of mathematicians to examine the impact of a large post-1992 influx of Soviet mathematicians on the productivity of their American counterparts. We find a negative productivity effect on those mathematicians whose research overlapped with that of the Soviets. We also document an increased mobility rate (to lower-quality institutions and out of active publishing) and a reduced likelihood of producing "home run" papers. Although the total product of the pre-existing American mathematicians shrank, the Soviet contribution to American mathematics filled in the gap. However, there is no evidence that the Soviets greatly increased the size of the "mathematics pie." Finally, we find that there are significant international differences in the productivity effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that these international differences can be explained by both differences in the size of the émigré flow into the various countries and in how connected each country is to the global market for mathematical publications.

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Music Piracy: A Case of "The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer"

Amedeo Piolatto & Florian Schuett
Information Economics and Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is evidence that music piracy has differential effects on artists depending on their popularity. We present a model of music piracy with endogenous copying costs: consumers' costs of illegal downloads increase with the scarcity of a recording and are therefore negatively related to the number of originals sold. Allowing for a second source of revenues apart from record sales, we show that piracy can hurt some artists while benefiting others. Under plausible assumptions, piracy is beneficial to the most popular artists. However, this does not carry over to less popular artists, who are often harmed by piracy. We conclude that piracy tends to reduce musical variety.

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Measuring the Effect of Napster on Recorded Music Sales: Difference-in-Differences Estimates under Compositional Changes

Seung-Hyun Hong
Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper measures the effect of Napster on record sales. I treat the introduction of Napster as a technological event that only Internet users experienced, and use a difference-in-differences (DD) approach. Because of potential compositional changes in Internet users, I examine identifying assumptions for the DD estimator under compositional changes and develop a test for identifying restrictions. To address potential bias due to compositional changes, I extend DD matching estimators to the case of two-variate propensity scores. I find evidence suggesting that file sharing is likely to explain 20% of total sales decline, which is driven by households with children aged 6-17.

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Music Downloads and the Flip Side of Digital Rights Management

Dinah Vernik, Devavrat Purohit & Preyas Desai
Marketing Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Digital rights management (DRM) is an important yet controversial issue in the information goods markets. Although DRM is supposed to help copyright owners by protecting digital content from illegal copying or distribution, it is controversial because DRM imposes restrictions on even legal users, and there are many industry practitioners who believe that the industry would be better off without DRM. In this paper, we model consumers' utilities and their incentives to purchase legal products versus pirate illegal ones. This allows us to endogenize the level of piracy and understand how it is influenced by the presence or absence of DRM. Our analysis suggests that, counterintuitively, download piracy might decrease when the firm allows legal DRM-free downloads. Furthermore, we find that a decrease in piracy does not guarantee an increase in firm profits and that copyright owners do not always benefit from making it harder to copy music illegally. By analyzing the competition among the traditional retailer, the digital retailer, and pirated sources of information goods, we get a better understanding of the competitive forces in the market and provide insights into the role of digital rights management.

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Elves or Trolls? The role of nonpracticing patent owners in the innovation economy

Damien Geradin, Anne Layne-Farrar & Jorge Padilla
Industrial and Corporate Change, February 2012, Pages 73-94

Abstract:
Firm structure and the degree of vertical integration lie at the core of a key intellectual property concern currently under debate: "patent trolls." While court opinions and competition agency decisions have focused on "non-practicing" patent holders as synonymous with trolls and hold up problems, this view of upstream specialists is far too narrow. In fact, patents in the hands of nonpracticing entities can increase competition, increase innovation, lower downstream prices, and enhance consumer choice. We explain why and when and argue for more business-model-neutral policy when it comes to patent licensing. Clearly, patents are a complex subject that cannot be portrayed as either all good or all bad; tradeoffs will always be involved. Likewise, patents in the hands of nonpracticing entities cannot be viewed as either all good or all bad. Without a better understanding of the many complicated effects of patents in high technology markets, we run the very real risk of misguided policy decisions. In light of that risk, we argue that more attention needs to be devoted to finding meaningful ways of identifying harmful behaviors, rather than on categorical labels based on firm structure or business model.

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The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls

James Bessen, Jennifer Ford & Michael Meurer
Boston University Working Paper, November 2011

Abstract:
In the past, non-practicing entities (NPEs) - firms that license patents without producing goods - have facilitated technology markets and increased rents for small inventors. Is this also true for today's NPEs? Or are they "patent trolls" who opportunistically litigate over software patents with unpredictable boundaries? Using stock market event studies around patent lawsuit filings, we find that NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010, mostly from technology companies. Moreover, very little of this loss represents a transfer to small inventors. Instead, it implies reduced innovation incentives and a net loss of social welfare.

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Intellectual Property Rights Policy, Competition and Innovation

Daron Acemoglu & Ufuk Akcigit
Journal of the European Economic Association, February 2012, Pages 1-42

Abstract:
To what extent and in what form should the intellectual property rights (IPR) of innovators be protected? Should a company with a large technology lead over its rivals receive the same IPR protection as a company with a more limited advantage? In this paper, we develop a dynamic framework for the study of the interactions between IPR and competition, in particular to understand the impact of such policies on future incentives. The economy consists of many industries and firms engaged in cumulative (step-by-step) innovation. IPR policy regulates whether followers in an industry can copy the technology of the leader. We prove the existence of a steady-state equilibrium and characterize some of its properties. We then quantitatively investigate the implications of different types of IPR policy on the equilibrium growth rate and welfare. The most important result from this exercise is that full patent protection is not optimal; instead, optimal policy involves state-dependent IPR protection, providing greater protection to technology leaders that are further ahead than those that are close to their followers. This is because of a trickle-down effect: providing greater protection to firms that are further ahead of their followers than a certain threshold increases the R&D incentives also for all technology leaders that are less advanced than this threshold.

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The dynamics of social innovation

Peyton Young
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 December 2011, Pages 21285-21291

Abstract:
Social norms and institutions are mechanisms that facilitate coordination between individuals. A social innovation is a novel mechanism that increases the welfare of the individuals who adopt it compared with the status quo. We model the dynamics of social innovation as a coordination game played on a network. Individuals experiment with a novel strategy that would increase their payoffs provided that it is also adopted by their neighbors. The rate at which a social innovation spreads depends on three factors: the topology of the network and in particular the extent to which agents interact in small local clusters, the payoff gain of the innovation relative to the status quo, and the amount of noise in the best response process. The analysis shows that local clustering greatly enhances the speed with which social innovations spread. It also suggests that the welfare gains from innovation are more likely to occur in large jumps than in a series of small incremental improvements.

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Optimal Copyright Length and Ex Post Investment: A Mickey Mouse Approach

Nodir Adilov & Michael Waldman
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper considers a theoretical model of copyright protection in which the value of an intellectual work changes over time because of depreciation and value-enhancing ex post investments. The first main finding is that, in the case of a single project, granting infinitely lived copyright protection maximizes social welfare when the return on ex post investments is high relative to the return on the initial investment. We also provide simulation results of our model for the case of multiple heterogeneous projects that show how social welfare varies with the length of copyright protection and the returns on initial and ex post investments. We then consider what our framework says concerning the social-welfare effects of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. Here we show that, depending on the importance of ex post investments, the act may have either increased or decreased social welfare. Our final analysis considers the social-welfare implications of replacing fixed-length copyright protection with Landes and Posner's(University of Chicago Law Review, 70(2), 2003, 471-518) idea of indefinitely renewable copyright protection. We find that implementing indefinitely renewable copyright protection frequently increases social welfare provided the returns on ex post investments are sufficiently large. We also provide a brief history of Disney's Mickey Mouse and argue that the history of that character matches quite well with the predictions of our theoretical approach.

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Behind the GATE Experiment: Evidence on Effects of and Rationales for Subsidized Entrepreneurship Training

Robert Fairlie, Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman
NBER Working Paper, February 2012

Abstract:
We use randomized program offers and multiple follow-up survey waves to examine the effects of entrepreneurship training on a broad set of outcomes. Training increases short run business ownership and employment, but there is no evidence of broader or longer run effects. We also test whether training mitigates market frictions by estimating heterogeneous treatment effects. Training does not have strong effects (in either relative or absolute terms) on those most likely to face credit or human capital constraints, or labor market discrimination. Training does have a relatively strong short-run effect on business ownership for those unemployed at baseline, but not at other horizons or for other outcomes.

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Does Distance Matter Less Now? The Changing Role of Geography in Biotechnology Innovation

Daniel Johnson & Kristina Lybecker
Review of Industrial Organization, February 2012, Pages 21-35

Abstract:
Using patent citation data for the U.S., we test whether knowledge spillovers in biotechnology are sensitive to distance, and whether that sensitivity has changed over time. Controlling for self-citation by inventor, assignee, and examiner, cohort-based regression analysis shows that physical distance is becoming less important for spillovers with time.

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Measuring the Price of Research and Development Output

Adam Copeland & Dennis Fixler
Review of Income and Wealth, March 2012, Pages 166-182

Abstract:
We construct a price index for the scientific R&D services industry, a significant producer of R&D in the United States. Unlike most previous R&D price indexes, our index is not based on input costs but rather on measures of R&D sales. Consequently, unlike input-cost price indexes, our output-based index is able to account for changes in productivity and markups in the scientific R&D services industry. We compute that scientific R&D services prices increased, on average, by 7.14 percent at an annual rate from 1987 to 2006. Using our index, we find that real revenues grew at an annual average rate of 2.85 percent. We then propose using our index, in combination with an input-cost price index, to deflate total R&D nominal expenditures. We find that real total U.S. R&D expenditures grew at an average annual rate of 1.42 percent from 1987 to 2006.

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Why are Some Regions More Innovative than Others? The Role of Firm Size Diversity

Ajay Agrawal et al.
NBER Working Paper, January 2012

Abstract:
Large labs may spawn spin-outs caused by innovations deemed unrelated to the firm's overall business. Small labs generate demand for specialized services that lower entry costs for others. We develop a theoretical framework to study the interplay of these two localized externalities and their impact on regional innovation. We examine MSA-level patent data during the period 1975-2000 and find that innovation output is higher where large and small labs coexist. The finding is robust to across-region as well as within-region analysis, IV analysis, and the effect is stronger in certain subsamples consistent with our explanation but not the plausible alternatives.


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