Patenting motives, technology strategies, and open innovation

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to empirically investigate firms’ motives to patent in general, and more specifically how some of these motives depend upon firms’ technology strategies and especially their level of open innovation. Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on a questionnaire survey sent to CTOs (or equivalent) of the largest R&D spenders among Swedish large firms (e.g., ABB, AstraZeneca, Ericsson, and Volvo) and among Swedish small and medium-sized enterprises. Principal component analysis and multiple linear regressions were used to check the impact from open innovation upon the importance of 21 different motives to patent, with a specific focus on protection and bargaining related motives. Findings: The most important motive to patent is to protect product technologies, but protecting freedom to operate is almost as important, followed by a number of other motives. Increasing importance of open innovation in firms is related to stronger bargaining motives to patent, and even stronger protection motives. In fact, when comparing with closed innovation the results show that open innovation is more strongly positively related with all different motives to patent except for one (to attract customers). This indicates that firms find it more important to patent when engaged in open innovation than when engaged in closed innovation. Originality/value: The paper reports results from the first study that links patenting motives to technology strategies. It contributes to an emerging stream of empirical studies investigating the role of patents in external technology strategies and open innovation, showing that the motives to patent are strengthened within open innovation settings.

Keywords: Patent management; motives to patent; technology strategy; innovation; intellectual property management; open innovation

Forthcoming in Management Decision.