Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series
Patent laws and innovation in China
International Review of Law and Economics
This paper explores whether the patent laws and intellectual property rights (IPR) system in China have resulted in innovation during the reform period. Subject to criticism on account of imperfect enforcement, the patent law system has produced a stock of patents which has grown rapidly alongside economic growth. The success rate of patent applications is similar across the country despite the considerable regional disparities in income and in the level of innovation. This paper presents a simple model of patent production in China derived from the patent law system that also considers the relevant contextual factors that could influence innovation. The main innovation input of R&D personnel is found to be a significant determinant of patents. While per capita GDP increases the propensity to innovate across all regions, notable heterogeneity exists whereby the coastal, central and interior areas are associated with different factors that produce innovation and influence the innovation process. The paper concludes that China's imperfect IPR system is nevertheless generating innovation as the country develops and hinges on the key factor of researchers. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.