La fabbrica delle idee

L’argomento che affronta Michael Kremer nel suo saggio “Patent Buyouts” è centrale:

… Economic growth ultimately depends on the production of new ideas, but competitive markets do not provide appropriate incentives for the production of ideas…

Ci si è provato in tutti i modi:

… Historically, societies have used a wide variety of mechanisms to encourage production of ideas. Some, such as patents and copyrights, provide inventors with monopolies over goods produced using their ideas. Others, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the synthetic fuels program, directly subsidize research…

Il sistema dei brevetti e dei diritti d’autore è altamente distorsivo:

… Patents and copyrights create insufficient incentives for original research because inventors cannot fully capture consumer surplus or spillovers of their ideas to other researchers. Patents and copyrights also create static distortions from monopoly pricing and encourage socially wasteful expenditures on reverse engineering to invent around patents…

Anche la ricerca sussidiata dallo stato non funziona:

… before research is conducted, the government may not know the costs and expected benefits of research, and it may not even be able to conceive of some inventions. Allowing government officials wide discretion to set payments to inventors ex post may lead to rent seeking and to expropriation of investors after their research costs are sunk…

Un suggerimento puo’ venirci dalla storia. Avete presente la sorte del dagherrotipo?

… In 1839, the government of France combined elements of the patent system and of direct government support of research by purchasing the patent for daguerreotype photography and placing the technique in the public domain. After the patent was bought out, daguerreotype photography was rapidly adopted worldwide and was subject to myriad technical improvements….

Purtroppo, l’acquisto governativo dei brevetti ha un inconveniente: quanto pagare. E qui viene avanzata una proposta:

… government would offer to buy out patents at this private value times a fixed markup that would roughly cover the difference between the social and private values of inventions. Inventors could decide whether to sell or retain their patents… However, in order to provide auction participants with an incentive to truthfully reveal their valuations, the government would randomly select a few patents that would be sold to the highest bidder. Encouraging innovation through such a mechanism would require more discretion by government officials than the current patent system but substantially less discretion than that exercised by, say, the National Institutes of Health…

Ci sono dei precedenti su cui poter lavorare per una messa a punto del meccanismo al fine di eliminare l’aspetto confiscatorio:

… Macfie (1869), a member of the British Parliament in the nineteenth century, proposed replacing the patent system with a reward system. In this century, Polanyi (1943) suggested replacing patents with rewards based on ex-post estimates of the value of inventions. Guell and Fischbaum (1995) suggest that the government use its power of eminent domain to purchase pharmaceutical patents. They propose that judges determine the buyout price. One problem with allowing broad administrative discretion over the patent buyout price is that this may lead to purchases at confiscatory prices and thus reduce incentives for innovation. Allowing broad discretion may also lead to wasteful expenditures on rent seeking… Patent buyouts would thus supplement, rather than replace, the existing patent system. Inventors would receive a markup over the private value of the patents to bring incentives for invention closer to the social value…

Problemi:

… One problem with a fixed reward is that people could claim rewards for trivial inventions… but perhaps the chief problem with patent buyouts is that they are potentially vulnerable to collusion, because inventors could bribe auction participants to submit high bids…

Come porre rimedio alle collusioni? Ci sono alcuni modi un po’ scontati:

… The government could make collusion more difficult using standard procedures such as requiring bids to be sealed, punishing companies and individuals found guilty of collusion, and rewarding whistle-blowers

Poi ci sono alcuni modi più legati alla struttura dell’asta. Per esempio quello di considerare solo la terza offerta più alta:

… The government would base the price it offers the inventor on the third highest bid. The original patent holder would therefore have to bribe three companies instead of one to ensure a substantial increase in the buyout price…

Oppure di trasformare il governo in un broker speculativo quando ha sentore di collusione:

… suppose that, based on the other bids and any knowledge of the industry, the government’s best estimate of the patent’s value was it. If a bidder offered it + x and the agency suspected collusion,” the government could offer to buy out the patent at it + $1 and then require the suspected colluding bidder to purchase the patent at its bid of it + x. The government would make a profit of x – 1 from the attempted collusion…

Ci sono poi metodi legati alla trasparenza delle società partecipanti:

… The government could develop lists of suspect bidders by checking whether winning bidders made money… bidders would have to provide information on any ties they had with the inventor…

Si possono istituire dei costi fissi:

… Bidders could be required to pay a licensing fee or deposit allowing them to participate in a number of auctions. This would make it unprofitable for patent holders to set up dummy companies…

Naturalmente sarebbe proibito il riacquisto a cura dell’inventore:

…  inventors would be prohibited from buying back the patent from the winning bidder or making other payments to bidders…

Ci sono poi delle modalità per stabilire un tetto alle offerte governative.

Si consideri comunque che esistono molte istituzioni minacciate dalla collusione e invece immuni dal fenomeno, si pensi alla peer-review:

… it is also important to remember that many institutions that are theoretically vulnerable to collusion operate relatively well. For example, peer review is highly vulnerable to collusion, yet the NSF and NIH seem relatively effective…

E poi il livello ottimale di collusione oltre il quale la soluzione proposta perderebbe di efficienza non è pari a zero.

… Even if collusion raises patent prices above their social value, the social value of inventions may be approximated better by the collusive price than by the existing patent system…

La soluzione dell’asta comunque non è universale, bisognerà studiare i vari casi specifici per valutare l’esistenza di mercati sufficientemente “densi” da rendere anonima l’emersione di un prezzo:

… The auction mechanism described in this chapter may be appropriate for many pharmaceuticals, but it would not be appropriate in industries where markets are too thin for auctions or patents are not an effective means of protecting inventions. In such industries, the government could simply offer to buy out patents for an amount equal to postbuyout sales times an administratively determined estimate of the average consumer surplus per unit of the good consumed…

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Un pensiero riguardo “La fabbrica delle idee”

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