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Patents Do Not Measure Innovation Success

David M. Reeb and Wanli Zhao

Critical Finance Review, 2020, vol. 9, issue 1-2, 157-199

Abstract: We find that a company’s patent filings and citations are not good measures of R&D success or failure, even when compared to firms in the same industry. Instead, our analysis reveals that patent counts reflect the firm’s mix of product and process innovation. Intuitively, competitor infringements of process innovation are difficult to detect, suggesting these innovations are better protected via trade secret than patents. We document that non-patenting firms frequently announce valuable new products, even though they emphasize process over product innovation. Insider trading in non-patenting firms generates positive excess returns, while such activity in patenting firms yields ordinary returns. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act induced firms to switch from patenting to non-patenting, leading to lower analysts and institutional following. Financial intermediaries potentially influence the disclosure of innovation rather than research and development success (Aghion et al., 2013; Bena et al., 2017). Overall, our tests indicate that patents and citations signify the nature of innovation rather R&D success.

Keywords: Product innovation; Process innovation; Patents; Trade secrets; Productannouncements; Insider trading; Disclosure choice; Financing innovation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: G30 G32 O30 O34 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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