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Gary Cox: Patent Disclosure and England’s Industrial Revolution

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Bush House South Lecture Theatre 2 (4.04)

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Did the English patent system help spark the Industrial Revolution? Most scholars addressing this question have focused on whether patents improved the economic incentive to invent. In contrast, I focus on whether patents improved access to useful knowledge—via the requirement (instituted in 1734) that patentees provide technical specifications for their inventions. I document a structural break in per-capita patenting in 1734—but only in London, where specifications were stored. I also document a structural shift in London-based inventors’ responsiveness to non-metropolitan patents in 1734, when specifications for them became regularly available. The results speak to the importance of public policies that can catalyze strategic complementarities in research.

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Gary W. Cox is the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. In addition to numerous articles in the areas of legislative and electoral politics, Cox is author of The Efficient Secret (winner of the 1983 Samuel H Beer dissertation prize and the 2003 George H Hallett Award), co-author of Legislative Leviathan (winner of the 1993 Richard F Fenno Prize), author of Making Votes Count (winner of the 1998 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, the 1998 Luebbert Prize and the 2007 George H Hallett Award); and co-author of Setting the Agenda (winner of the 2006 Leon D. Epstein Book Award). His most recent book is Marketing Sovereign Promises (2016). A former Guggenheim Fellow, Cox was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. He received his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology in 1983.

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