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Prizes, patents and the search for longitude

M. Diane Burton and Tom Nicholas

Explorations in Economic History, 2017, vol. 64, issue C, 21-36

Abstract: The 1714 Longitude Act created the Board of Longitude to administer a large monetary prize and progress payments for the precise determination of a ship's longitude. However, the prize did not prohibit patenting. We use a new dataset of marine chronometer inventors to show that the propensity to patent was high. We argue that while the prize spurred entry by key inventors, and progress payments facilitated research investment in an area of significant social value, patents promoted disclosure. Our findings highlight the importance of complementarities between prize and patent-based incentives in the design of innovation inducement contests.

Keywords: Prizes; Patents; Innovation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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