Purpose: Extant research and practice of patent management are often occupied with how to best utilize patenting as a source of competitive advantage. This paper instead suggests a patent management trichotomy where firms make strategic decisions between patenting, publishing, and secrecy. Approach: The paper is conceptual in nature and draws on received IP-management literature to develop an analytical framework. Findings: We suggest that the choice between patenting, publishing, and secrecy can be understood in terms of differences in the degree to which the firm can appropriate value from the invention and the degree to which it can operate freely. Originality/value: Through an analysis along the dimensions of direct and indirect appropriation as well as static and dynamic freedom to operate, the article conceptualizes the choice between patenting, publishing, and secrecy in a way useful for management decisions as well as for academics.
Keywords: Patenting; defensive publishing; strategic disclosure; secrecy; intellectual property management; innovation
Forthcoming in Management Decision.