The effect of patent protection on inventor mobility Articles uri icon

publication date

  • May 2020

start page

  • 5485

end page

  • 5504


  • 12


  • 66

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-1909

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1526-5501


  • This article investigates the effect of patent protection on the mobility of earlycareer employee-inventors. Using data on patent applications filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between 2001 and 2012 and examiner leniency as a source of exogenous variation in patent protection, we find that one additional patent granted decreases the likelihood of changing employers, on average, by 23%. This decrease is stronger when the employee has fewer coinventors, works outside the core of the firm, and produces more basic-research innovations. These findings are consistent with the idea that patents turn innovation-related skills into patent-holder-specific human capital.


  • Business
  • Economics


  • inventors; patents; mobility; specific human capital; examiner leniency