Working Paper | 2014

Information Technology and the Distribution of Inventive Activity

by Chris Forman, Avi Goldfarb and Shane Greenstein

Abstract

We examine the relationship between the diffusion of advanced internet technology and the geographic concentration of invention, as measured by patents. First, we show that patenting became more concentrated from the early 1990s to the early 2000s and, similarly, that counties that were leaders in patenting in the early 1990s produced relatively more patents by the early 2000s. Second, we compare the extent of invention in counties that were leaders in Internet adoption to those that were not. We see little difference in the growth rate of patenting between leaders and laggards in Internet adoption, on average. However, we find that the rate of patent growth was faster among counties that were not leaders in patenting in the early 1990s but were leaders in Internet adoption by 2000, suggesting that the Internet helped stem the trend towards more geographic concentration. We show that these results are largely driven by patents filed by distant collaborators rather than non-collaborative patents or patents by non-distant collaborators, suggesting low cost long-distance digital communication as a potential mechanism.

Keywords: Patents; Internet; Technology Adoption; Innovation and Invention;

Citation:

Forman, Chris, Avi Goldfarb, and Shane Greenstein. "Information Technology and the Distribution of Inventive Activity." NBER Working Paper Series, No. 20036, April 2014.