Policy and Regions Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) Karlsruhe, Germany
The present article examines the question, whether or not different types of firms tend to protect their innovations with varying mechanisms. Against the background of the Rational-Choice-Theory (RC-Theory), firms are differentiated by their size, technological field and their degree of internationalisation. According to the RC-Theory modelling it is hypothesized that large, high-tech and strongly internationalised firms show a stronger tendency to use formal instruments, e.g. patents, to protect their innovations, whereas small and medium sized (SME), low-tech and weakly internationalised companies follow the strategy of protecting their innovations with informal instruments, e.g. head-start or secrecy, to maximize their expected utility.
A twofold approach is followed to analyse the theoretical model. For the empirical testing a large-scale survey - about 540 records - of patenting companies in Germany is used. To account for the differences in attitudes towards formal and informal protection mechanisms a Multinomial-Logit-Model is calculated. Differences in the actual IPR-Management behaviour are analysed by using a Negative-Binomial-Regression-Model on patent intensity.
The results show that the attitudes towards protecting innovative achievements only differ slightly by firm-type. Large differences can be revealed on the behavioural level which, together with some other findings, leads to the conclusion that mostly SMEs are forced to use certain protection mechanisms, sometimes against their rational maxims, to keep pace with large companies and technological precursors in fast growing markets.