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Science. 2009 Mar 6;323(5919):1335-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1158624.

Promoting intellectual discovery: patents versus markets.

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Bocconi University, 20136 Milan, Italy.


Because they provide exclusive property rights, patents are generally considered to be an effective way to promote intellectual discovery. Here, we propose a different compensation scheme, in which everyone holds shares in the components of potential discoveries and can trade those shares in an anonymous market. In it, incentives to invent are indirect, through changes in share prices. In a series of experiments, we used the knapsack problem (in which participants have to determine the most valuable subset of objects that can fit in a knapsack of fixed volume) as a typical representation of intellectual discovery problems. We found that our "markets system" performed better than the patent system.

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