The Economic History Review

Independent invention in Italy during the Liberal Age, 1861–1913

Volume 68 Issue 3
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Pages: 858-886Authors: Alessandro Nuvolari, Michelangelo Vasta
Published online: November 7, 2014DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12087

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This article examines the phenomenon of independent invention in Italy during the Liberal Age (1861-1913). It makes use of a new dataset comprising all patents granted in Italy in five benchmark years: 1864-5, 1881, 1891, 1902, and 1911. The following exercises are carried out. First, an examination is undertaken of the shares of independent, corporate, and foreign inventions and their evolution over time and across industries. Second, by exploiting the peculiarities of Italian patent legislation, which was characterized by relatively cheap fees and a flexible renewal scheme, the relative quality of independent and corporate patents is assessed. The results indicate that in Italy independent inventors made an important contribution to technological change in terms of number of patents, but the quality of their patents was significantly lower than that of firms and of foreign patentees.