Neil Thompson Image

Neil Thompson

is Innovation Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is a coauthor of “Does winning a patent race lead to more follow-on innovation?”.

Recent Articles by Neil Thompson

How Patent Races Impact Innovation

When it comes to patents, timing matters. If two inventors are working on the same invention, it is the one who races to the patent office first that gets the brass ring. Perhaps the most famous example of a “patent race” is when Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray both filed a patent for the telephone on the same day. Bell won the patent, started a successful company, and is now synonymous with the telephone, while few people remember Gray. For years, economists have used patent races as the quintessential example of how firms innovate in the presence of competition. But these discussions are usually only grounded in theory. To gain more insight on how this plays out in the real world, Jeffrey Kuhn and I created the first way to identify patent races—and we used it to analyze the effect of patent racing on innovation.