Efficient access to existing knowledge is essential to technical advance, yet little is known about how access-enhancing institutions shape intertemporal knowledge spillovers. In this paper, I investigate the cumulative technological impact of the CNIDR AIDS Database, the first, disease-targeted, online repository of electronic patent documents, launched in 1994. Tracing references from subsequent patents, I find that the marginal impact of the repository was largest (+30%) among patents for which the established disease-link was previously non-obvious to detect through standard bibliographic search, in line with predictions of stronger reduction of search costs. Further findings suggest that increased visibility and attention to more “hidden” prior art particularly benefited private sector HIV researchers, and was reflected in enhanced diffusion of technological knowledge across scientific community and geographic boundaries.
Contact: Fabian Gaessler