Cooperative Marketing Agreements Between Competitors: Evidence from Patent Pools

Intellectual Property, Competition Policy and Antitrust and Patents

Article Snapshot


Josh Lerner, Marcin Strojwas and Jean Tirole


Harvard NOM Working Paper No. 03-25, April 2003


This paper looks at organizations known as “patent pools,” or groups of firms that license patents to one another.

Policy Relevance

Some worry that patent pools exclude competition, but evidence shows that larger pools are friendly to competition.

Main Points

  • A “patent pool” is a group of firms that agree to license related patents to one another.
  • Pools are more likely to allow firms outside the pool to license pool patents when the patents are not substitutes for one another.
  • Pools with more members are:
    • More likely to allow nonmember to license pool patents.
    • More likely to control any litigation.
    • Have more third-party licensing of pool patents.
  • Since 1995, some pools were disallowed because of competition policy, so pools focused on more important patents.
  • Evidence suggests that pools are mainly to solve problems with overlapping claims to technology, and not to collude.

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