Innovation is the internal force driving the transformation and upgrading of China’s economic structure. Intellectual property protection is one of the most important institutional arrangements for stimulating innovation. In order to strengthen the construction of the intellectual property system, China began to implement the policy of “National Intellectual Property Model Cities” in 2012, and continued to expand the scope of pilots. Although the research on the relationship between intellectual property protection and regional innovation has a long history, there are still two areas can be improved: First, few studies focus on the impact and mechanism of the construction of “National Intellectual Property Model Cities” on regional innovation. However, the discussion on the relationship between the above two has practical significance for China to accelerate the construction of an innovation-oriented country. Second, while examining the innovation effect of intellectual property protection, most of the existing studies do not distinguish between the quantity of innovation and the quality of innovation. However, the quality of innovation is obviously more representative of substantive innovation capabilities. Therefore, the core problem to be solved in this paper is, as the country’s pioneering area to promote the intellectual property system, can the construction of intellectual property model cities become the source of innovation quality?
Based on the theoretical analysis, this paper uses the data of 277 prefecture-level cities in China from 2007 to 2017, combined with the difference-in-difference model to examine the effect of the establishment of model cities on innovation quality. It is found that: First, the establishment of model cities significantly improves the quality of urban innovation, and this conclusion remains unchanged after a series of robustness tests. Second, the results of the heterogeneity test show that, for cities with higher administrative levels or higher degrees of marketization, the establishment of model cities has a stronger effect on improving innovation quality, while the positive effect does not have significant regional heterogeneity. Third, the results of the mechanism test show that, the establishment of model cities improves innovation quality mainly by strengthening the strategic guidance of local governments, increasing the supply of intellectual property systems, and optimizing the allocation of innovative elements. Fourth, on the basis of using the knowledge width method to measure the quality of enterprise patents, this paper further uses the micro-level data to test the impact of the establishment of model cities on the innovation quality of listed companies. It is found that the establishment of model cities has a significant effect on the quality of invention patents, but cannot significantly affect the quality of utility model patents.
The anticipated contribution of this paper is as follows: First, to our knowledge, this is the first attempt to analyze the impact of the establishment of intellectual property model cities on innovation quality, which provides new perspectives and empirical evidence for the field of innovation effects related to intellectual property protection. Second, on the basis of confirming the effectiveness of intellectual property model city construction, this paper further analyzes the characteristics of urban heterogeneity effects, and deeply explores the mechanism of model city construction on innovation quality, which can provide government departments with practical reference for policy tools. Third, in addition to the regional level, this paper further uses the knowledge width method to measure the patent quality of Chinese listed companies, and confirms that the construction of intellectual property model cities also has the effect of improving the innovation quality at the micro level, which makes the research conclusions of this paper more credible and robust.