Patenting in nineteenth century New Zealand: An economic and historical analysis

by Matthew Linus Gibbons

Institution: University of Waikato
Year: 2016
Keywords: Patents; Important inventors
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2107878
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10576


This thesis has studied the relationship between patenting and economic development in nineteenth century New Zealand, and the extent to which different population groups patented. These topics are studied using all patents applied for in New Zealand between 1860 and 1899, with the data being weighted by fees and other required expenditure on each patent. Patent application costs were substantially reduced in the 1880s when the government sought to broaden access to patenting. This thesis has confirmed that the lower cost of patent applications was associated with increased patent applications by New Zealanders. In addition, the proportion of patenting by some skilled trades workers increased after application fees were reduced. However, despite reduced application costs, patenting by low income earners, such as labourers, remained low. New Zealand farmers made a higher proportion of patent applications than farmers in comparable patenting systems, but the rate at which they patented was below average for male workers. Engineers, who had trained through apprenticeships, were the occupational group that applied for the most patents. Patenting by women increased from the mid-1880s, but even in 1899 women applied for only 2.5% of total patent applications. Maori made little use of the patenting system. No New Zealand region had the highest patenting rates for very long. The highest spending New Zealand patentees were typically engineers who patented products, such as agricultural or mining equipment, they had invented. Furthermore, they usually owned a business that produced goods and services they had patented. Some of the highest spending patentees became prosperous, although those who developed mining technology were relatively economically unsuccessful. For individual output series there were more cointegrating relationships between patent expenditure and economic output than between patent applications and economic output. Output series usually led patenting, particularly using patent expenditure data, which indicates patentees were concentrating on economic needs. Nevertheless, there were important examples, such as agriculture, where output followed expenditure on patents. Furthermore, total patent applications per capita and total patent expenditure per capita both Granger caused GDP per capita in New Zealand. This suggests that patent applications and expenditure helped increase living standards in New Zealand over the period studied. Advisors/Committee Members: Oxley, Les (advisor).