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John Howells

is an Associate Professor at the Aarhus University. He holds a BSc (Physics), a MSc. (Science Policy) and a Phd (Management). John researches in the economics and management of technology development with a focus on the theory and empirical evidence pertaining to the role of patents in development. John is currently working with Ron D Katznelson on the role of pioneer patents in development in four classic cases where patents are alleged to have retarded development; in the incandescent lamp, aircraft, radio and automobile industries. John and Ron recently published their article on “The myth of the early aviation patent hold-up” in Industrial and Corporate Change see: Aviation patents. John’s books, refereed journal articles and work-in-progress are listed on his C.V. at Amongst other topics, John teaches the management of intellectual property to business students.

Recent Articles by John Howells

The patent ‘troll’ fables of the automobile industry

The “troll” narrative of Nakajima and Snow will have us believe that any patent lawsuit to resolve a dispute constitutes abusive litigation. Economic folklore devoid of scale and proportion should not mislead this blog’s readers. First, even if one takes at face value Nakajima’s “six to seven figure” cost for settling per suit, those costs amounted to about $100 million in 2014. This is less than 0.01% of the $1.1 trillion in U.S. automobile sales in 2014, hardly a “serious drain on the automobile industry.” The growth in number of suits may simply be a result of the automotive industry shifting from traditional incremental improvement into adoption of new technologies developed outside that industry such as radar, sensors, navigation, video imaging, smart displays, batteries, electric propulsion, and computer-controlled systems. Second, we have shown that allegations that the Selden patent litigation “stifled the infant automobile industry” are false. We do so in-depth elsewhere by marshalling historical empirical evidence from primary sources in our article The “Overly-broad” Selden patent, Henry Ford and Development in the Early US Automobile Industry.