NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Defacto and Deeded Intellectual Property: Knowledge-Driven Co-Evolution of Firm Collaboration Boundaries and IPR Strategy

Lynne G. Zucker, Michael R. Darby

NBER Working Paper No. 20249
Issued in June 2014
NBER Program(s):   PR

Research on intellectual property has focused on formal legally recorded rights that we call deeded, most often measured by granted patents. Meanwhile, other “defacto” IP (mainly purposive secrecy and natural excludability) has become more important because of the increasing closeness of commercial technologies to cutting edge science. A “corporate-academic” model has developed and become institutionalized over the last three decades which emphasizes attracting the best and brightest scientists, providing them with a commensurate increase in autonomy including initiation of bench-level collaborations with top university scientists in which valuable tacit knowledge is transferred in both directions. We provide suggestive evidence that both firm and university scientists learn from these collaborations, e.g., both types of scientists experience sharply higher patenting rates once they have engage in university-firm collaborations. We propose and test two indicators of adoption of the corporate-academic model, whether or not the firm has ever: (a) co-authored an article with a university scientist and (b) applied for (an eventually granted) patent with non-patent references, where these references are used importantly to cite scientific articles and other scientific materials. Both were robustly positive and statistically significant across four measures of U.S. high-tech firm success (publishing, patenting, obtaining venture capital, and going public) for six broad S&T areas (bio/chem/med, information technology, nanotechnology, semiconductors, other science, and other engineering). Star scientists publication as or with firm employees, SBIR grants received, and citation-weighted patents and articles all played comparatively supporting roles in the empirical estimates. We concluded that the most successful high-tech firms have adopted a strategy of operating near the edge of the scientific envelope where high levels of tacit knowledge provide substantial natural excludability reducing or preventing entry of imitators.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20249

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