2013/20 LEM Working Paper Series

Independent Invention in Italy during the Liberal Age, 1861-1913

Alessandro Nuvolari, Michelangelo Vasta

  JEL Classifications
N73, O31

In this paper we examine the phenomenon of independent invention in Italy during the Liberal Age (1861-1913).We make use of a new dataset comprising all patents granted in Italy in five benchmark years: 1864-65, 1881, 1891, 1902 and 1911. We carry out the following exercises. First we examine the shares of independent, corporate and foreign inventions and their evolution over time and across industries. Second, by exploiting the peculiarities of Italian patent legislation which was characterized by a relatively cheap fees and a flexible renewal scheme, we assess the relative quality of independent and corporate patents. Our results indicate that in Italy independent inventors provided an important contribution to technological change in terms of number of patents, but the quality of their patents was significantly lower than that of firms and of foreign patentees.
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