Bechtold, Buccafusco and Sprigman (2016)
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|Bechtold, Buccafusco and Sprigman (2016)|
|Title:||Innovation Heuristics: Experiments on Sequential Creativity in Intellectual Property|
|Author(s):||Stefan Bechtold, Christopher Buccafusco, Christopher Jon Sprigman|
|Citation:||Bechtold, S., Buccafusco, C. And Sprigman, J.C. (2016) Innovation Heuristics: Experiments on Sequential Creativity in Intellectual Property. Indiana Law Journal, 2016, Forthcoming.|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:|| Data were obtained from a set of experiments designed to understand how people innovate when choices are constrained. Participants were recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk.
• The first experiments test to which extent creators are price sensitive to the costs of borrowing from existing IP. In one experiment, participants solved a mathematical Wagon “knapsack” problem (489 subjects), and a further experiment varied this with a verbal “Scrabble”-style task (541 subjects).
• The second set of experiments examined to what extent innovation and borrowing were associated with quality. These largely replicated the first and second experiments, with 241 and 273 subjects respectively.
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:|
“All creativity and innovation build on existing ideas. Authors and inventors copy, adapt, improve, interpret, and refine the ideas that have come before them. The central task of intellectual property (IP) law is regulating this sequential innovation to ensure that initial creators and subsequent creators receive the appropriate sets of incentives. Although many scholars have applied the tools of economic analysis to consider whether IP law is successful in encouraging cumulative innovation, that work has rested on a set of untested assumptions about creators’ behavior. This Article reports four novel creativity experiments that begin to test those assumptions. In particular, we study how creators decide whether to copy, or “borrow,” from existing ideas or to innovate around them.
Our data suggest that creators do not consistently behave the way that economic analysis assumes. Instead of rationally weighing the objective costs and benefits of different courses of action, creators instead were influenced by decision-making heuristics and individual preferences that often led to suboptimal and inefficient creative behavior. Many of our subjects chose to borrow when innovating was the optimal strategy, and even more chose to innovate when borrowing was the optimal strategy. We find that subjects are only mildly responsive to external incentives. Rather, choices between innovation and borrowing correlated much more powerfully with their internal, subjective beliefs about the difficulty of innovating. We conclude by exploring the implications of our data for innovation markets and IP doctrine.”
Main Results of the Study
When tasked with creating, creators often use mental “shortcuts” which leads to them to innovate rather than borrow, even where this is a clearly suboptimal choice. Even where external bonuses/incentives are offered to creators this is only mildly effective; instead, internal subjective beliefs about the difficulty associated with innovating is a more significant motivator. As such, creators may not be acting in a way that optimises costs vs benefits (as presumed by some IP theories), and their inefficiency may cause significant social costs and reduction in overall welfare.
Results from the experiments show that when faced with complex decisions, creators substitute easy solutions for harder ones; this translates to creators being more likely to work around the requirement for a licence rather than to simply obtain the licence. Here, the study suggests that copyright in particular may have a deterrent effect on creativity by encouraging innovation over borrowing, even when innovations are minor. This is not equivalent to e.g. patent improvements, which can be protected in themselves. As such, minor changes to copyrighted works are perceived as more high risk (and ergo more likely to be abandoned) than patent improvements.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The study suggests that copyright’s emphasis on innovation over borrowing may be socially suboptimal. An adaptation of the patent system may instead be more beneficial in granting protection over creators’ new contributions rather than perpetuating a deterrent effect.