Large US study: inventors invent less in the service of large companies

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Inventors who join large companies earn more money, but file fewer patent applications than inventors who go to work for small companies. This is shown by a large American study.

The research from the University of Chicago and the US Census Bureau, conducted among 760,000 American inventors who were active between 2000 and 2019, shows that inventors become less productive after a takeover. They file an average of 6 to 11 percent fewer patent applications than inventors at smaller companies. The inventors who went to work for a large company earned 12 percent more than those who did not.

The researchers created a model on the assumption that large companies want to snatch inventors and leave their inventions on the shelf to defend their market position. They tested that model with the data of the 760,000 inventors and data about where they work, how many patent applications they filed and how much they earned. A reduction in patent applications and inventions could harm the US economy in the long run. That is why it is necessary to see whether changes in political policy are necessary, the researchers argue including in The Wall Street Journal.

Although it is a large study, it is still unknown what causes lead to these consequences. For example, according to a Danish scientist who was not involved in the research, it is also possible that some inventors thrive better within a large company, while others prefer a smaller company.

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