Patents, exhibitions and markets for innovation in the early twentieth century: Evidence from Turin 1911 International Exhibition

Giacomo Domini

#2016-061

This work contributes to the recent literature on international exhibitions, and on the use of data from these events as a proxy for innovation in economic history. In particular, it investigates the nature of international exhibitions, the role they played in the early twentieth century, the reasons why economic agents attended them, the relationship between exhibition data and patent data, and their suitability for measuring innovation. To do so, it makes an in-depth analysis of the International Exhibition held in Turin in 1911, and it matches a new database, built from the catalogue of this event, with data about patents granted in Italy. It is found that exhibiting and patenting did mostly occur separately, as exhibitions mainly worked as markets for products, which attracted firms, while patents were primarily taken out by individuals, most of whom might not be interested in that function. Yet, the presence is observed of a qualified niche of independent inventors, using the exhibition as a market for ideas, i.e. to advertise their findings to a selected public of potential investors, buyers or licensees.

Keywords: patents, international exhibitions, markets for innovation, Italy

JEL Classification: N74, O31, O33

  


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