Watt, Again? Boldrin and Levine Still Exaggerate the Adverse Effect of Patents on the Progress of Steam Power : Review of Law & Economics

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Review of Law & Economics

Editor-in-Chief: Parisi, Francesco

Ed. by Cooter, Robert D. / Gómez Pomar, Fernando / Kornhauser, Lewis A. / Parchomovsky, Gideon / Engel, Christoph


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Watt, Again? Boldrin and Levine Still Exaggerate the Adverse Effect of Patents on the Progress of Steam Power

George Selgin1 / John L. Turner2

1Terry College of Business, University of Georgia

2Terry College of Business, University of Georgia

Citation Information: Review of Law & Economics. Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 1101–1113, ISSN (Online) 1555-5879, DOI: 10.2202/1555-5879.1432, December 2009

Publication History

Published Online:
2009-12-31

In an earlier comment on Boldrin and Levine’s 2003 lecture on patents and their effect on technology, we observed that their account of James Watt’s influence on the progress of steam technology contained factual errors which tended to exaggerate the negative consequences of Watt’s patent. We concluded that it was far from obvious that a corrected account would support Boldrin and Levine’s bold conjectures. While Boldrin and Levine’s 2008 “Against Intellectual Monopoly” begins with a new version of Watt’s story that claims to take our earlier criticisms into account, here we assess that version and conclude that it shares many of the shortcomings of the original.

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