Firms' perception of the importance and use of patents as a means of appropriating the returns from innovation

By Henrique M. de Barros


The present research extends the existing literature in at least three aspects. Firstly, it looks at what makes firms perceive patents as more or less important. Secondly, it examines how patents do (if at all) interact with other appropriability mechanisms. Finally, it looks at how firms act with respect to why, where, what and when to patent.\ud \ud The manufacturing industry is still the major source of patent applications. Thus, a firm-level study in manufacturing was chosen. The adopted methodology consists of i) a series of interviews with decision-makers on patents in six pharmaceuticals firms, using a semi-structured questionnaire, and ii) two postal surveys of firms in UK manufacturing, conducted through structured questionnaires. One survey, also known as the Community Innovation Survey, was undertaken by the UK Office for National Statistics on behalf of the UK Department of Trade industry. Another survey, encompassing particular aspects of patenting activities, was administered by the researcher to firms listed in the UK R&D Scoreboard.\ud \ud Contrary to our suspicions patent numbers may be a good proxy for evaluating the importance of patents as a mechanism of protection, but not necessarily for measuring the level of innovativeness of a firm. Secondly, our findings suggest that some mechanisms of appropriability are more correlated to patents than others but, overall, they lead to the same sort of conclusions. Finally, we found that i) firms seek patents mainly as a protective device against copying; ii) patents tend to be filed early in the innovation process when the prospects may still be uncertain; iii) in general broader patent scope is sought but a narrow scope can also be valuable; and iv) the attractiveness of the market is central when firms decide to pursue cross-border proprietary control of the knowledge they create

Topics: T201
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