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Catching-Up and Falling Behind: Knowledge Spillover from American to German Machine Toolmakers

  • RALF RICHTER (a1) and JOCHEN STREB (a2)
Abstract

Today, German machine toolmakers accuse their Chinese competitors of violating patent rights and imitating German technology. A century ago, German machine toolmakers used the same methods to imitate American technology. To understand the dynamics of this catching-up process, we use patent statistics to analyze firms’ activities between 1877 and 1932. We show that German firms deployed imitating strategies in the late nineteenth century and the 1920s to catch-up to their American competitors. The German administration supported this strategy by stipulating a patent law that discriminated against foreign patent holders and by delaying the granting of patents to foreign applicants.

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