Market Power and Patent Strategies: Evidence from Renaissance Venice

This paper exploits the introduction of the first regularized patent system, which appeared in the Venetian Republic in 1474, to examine the factors shaping inventors’ propensity to use a new form of intellectual property. We combine detailed information on craft guilds and patents in Renaissance Venice and show a negative association between patenting activity and guild statutory norms that strongly restricted entry and price competition. Our analysis shows that the heterogeneity in patenting activity documented by the industrial organization literature is not a special feature of modern technologies, but is rather a persistent phenomenon affected by market power.