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During the past two decades, innovations protected by patents have played a key role in business strategies. This fact enhanced studies of the determinants of patents and the impact of patents on innovation and competitive advantage. Sustaining competitive advantages is as important as creating them. Patents help sustaining competitive advantages by increasing the production cost of competitors, by signaling a better quality of products and by serving as barriers to entry. If patents are rewards for innovation, more R&D should be reflected in more patent applications but this is not the end of the story. There is empirical evidence showing that patents through time are becoming easier to get and more valuable to the firm due to increasing damage awards from infringers. These facts question the constant and static nature of the relationship between R&D and patents. Furthermore, innovation creates important knowledge spillovers due to its imperfect appropriability. Our paper investigates these dynamic effects using US patent data from 1979 to 2000 with alternative model specifications for patent counts. We introduce a general dynamic count panel data model with dynamic observable and unobservable spillovers, which encompasses previous models, is able to control for the endogeneity of R&D and therefore can be consistently estimated by maximum likelihood. Apart from allowing for firm specific fixed and random effects, we introduce a common unobserved component, or secret stock of knowledge, that affects differently the propensity to patent of each firm across sectors due to their different absorptive capacity.