there exist efficiency gains from joint ventures; and that Sematech seems to have induced member firms to lower their expenditures on R&D. This evidence is consistent with the notion that Sematech facilitates more sharing and less duplication of research, and helps to explain why member firms have indicated that they would fully fund the consortium in the absence of the government financing. It is difficult to reconcile this, however, with the view that Sematech induces firms to do more semiconductor research.
In his presentation, Richard Zeckhauser (13) suggested that economists and analysts of technology policy often overestimate the degree to which technological information is truly a public good, and that this misunderstanding has led them to devote inadequate attention to the challenges of contracting for such information. Economists have long noted the problems in contracting, or agency, that arise from the costs of verifying states of the world, or from the fact that potential outcomes are so numerous that it is not possible to prespecify contingent payments. All of these problems are relevant in contracting for technological information, and constitute impediments to the effectiveness of invention and technological diffusion. Zeckhauser discusses how government, in its role as enforcer and definer of property rights in intellectual capital as well as in its tax, trade, and antitrust policies, has a major impact on the magnitude of contracting difficulties and the way in which they are resolved. United States policies toward intellectual capital were developed for an era of predominantly physical products, and it is perhaps time for them to be reexamined and refashioned to meet current technological realities.
As long as authorities have acted to stimulate invention by granting property rights to intellectual capital they have been plagued by the questions of when exploitation of such property rights comes to constitute abuse of monopoly power or an antitrust violation, and what should their policies be about such cases. The final paper presented at the colloquium offered an economic analysis of a contemporary policy problem emanating from this general issue—whether or not to require holders of intellectual property to offer licenses. As Richard Gilbert and Carl Shapiro (14) make clear, the effects of compulsory licensing on economic efficiency are ambiguous—for any kind of capital. They show that an obligation to offer licenses does not necessarily increase economic welfare even in the short run. Moreover, as is well recognized, obligations to deal can have profound adverse consequences for investment and for the creation of intellectual property in the long run. Equal access (compulsory licensing in the case of intellectual property) is an efficient remedy only if the benefits of equal access outweigh the regulatory costs and the long run disincentives for investment and innovation. This is a high threshold, particularly in the case of intellectual property.
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