Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Scott Baker (University of North Carolina, School of Law), Pak Yee Lee (University of Leicester, Department of Economics), and Claudio Mezzetti (University of Warwick, Department of Economics), have an interesting paper on Intellectual Property Disclosure as 'Threat'.
ABSTRACT: This paper models the disclosure of knowledge via licensing to outsiders or fringe firms as a threat, useful in ensuring firms keep their commitments. We show that firms holding intellectual property are better able to enforce agreements than firms that don't. In markets requiring innovation to make a product, IP disclosure presents a more powerful threat than entry by the punishing firm alone. Occasionally, a punishing firm won't be able to translate its intellectual property into a full-blown product, making it impossible for it to enter the cheating firm's market and punish. Even if it can't make a product itself, the punishing firm can always credibly threaten to license the intellectual property it has on hand to someone else. With this intellectual property as a springboard, chances are at least one fringe firm will be able to do the translation, make the product and enter the cheating firm's market. In short, the potential for licensing increases the likelihood of punishment for uncooperative behavior.In the model, firms contract explicitly to ex-change knowledge and tacitly to coordinate the introduction of innovations to the marketplace. We find conditions under which firms can self-enforce both agreements. The enforcement conditions are weaker when (1) firms possess knowledge and (2) knowledge is easily transferable to other firms. The disclosure threat has implications for antitrust law generally, which are considered.