Uses and nonuses of patented inventions
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Innovation comprises the processes of invention and commercialization. While the importance of innovation, especially commercialization, has been widely recognized, existing studies have largely overlooked the commercialization process. By examining the determinants of uses and nonuses of patented inventions from firms at the levels of technology, organization, and project/invention, this study attempts to help fill a critical gap in the literature. In doing so, it enriches theoretical understandings of innovation and, in particular, builds on the evolutionary explanation of technology development, the Teecian framework on profiting from innovation, Transaction Cost Economics (TCE), the Knowledge-Based View (KBV), and open innovation and innovation network perspectives. It also reveals an empirical reality of commercial use and strategic nonuse of patents. The study is based on a novel dataset constructed from multiple sources: inventor surveys, the United States Patent and Trademark Office online database, and COMPUSTAT, among others. After examining the factors affecting overall propensity to commercialize patented inventions, this study explores the factors that affect the organizational paths of commercialization. The empirical estimation indicates that technological uncertainty and a strong internal position of complementary assets raise the propensity for internal commercialization. The study argues that openness of innovation processes and network relationships should affect the choice of commercialization paths. Consistent with the hypotheses, empirical estimations show that external industrial knowledge increases the propensity of internal commercialization. The study also indicates that collaboration has diverging effects on the choice of commercialization paths. While collaboration with firms in vertical relationships tends to favor internal commercialization, collaboration with firms in horizontal relationships tends to favor external commercialization (licensing, start-up). Finally, the study reports findings on the strategic use of patents and then tests hypotheses about the factors driving strategic nonuse. It concludes that a significant portion of U.S. patents are indeed filed for strategic reasons. It also finds that characteristics of technology and firms are significantly associated with different strategies. In particular, firms are more likely to use a patent for strategic defensive purposes when they have larger amounts of assets. The study concludes with discussing managerial and policy implications.