Innovation Management and Strategy Department,
School of Economics and Business, University of Groningen,
Groningen, The Netherlands
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to further the development of strategic thinking, relevant for
both academics and practitioners, about a key asset in the knowledge economy: patents.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper draws on existing insights on the strategic use of
patents, presenting them in a coherent framework.
Findings – The paper discusses the different aspects to patent strategizing that need dedicated
management attention, and discusses the key considerations to be taken into account. The paper also
indicates at which levels in the organization patent strategizing needs to take place.
Practical implications – Practitioners will be much more aware of the strategic options for using
patents to further a ﬁrm’s competitive position.
Originality/value – The paper draws to some extent on existing knowledge about patents. Such
knowledge has, however, been scattered across different domains. The strategic options for a ﬁrm of
using patents have not been discussed at length or in the context of a comprehensive framework either
in the academic literature or in that for practitioners.
Keywords Strategic management, Intellectualcapital, Patents, Assets management
Paper type Viewpoint
In recent years analysts and managers have become aware of the importance of
knowledge for business and so their focus has moved to intellectual assets as strategic
assets. Companies are increasingly aware of the competitive advantage a
well-developed and strong portfolio of patents, copyrights, and trademarks may
offer. Many ﬁrms’ strategy towards patents is still haphazard, however, which might
be due to the scant guidance offered by analysts and academics. The still sometimes
limited possibility to search patent databases may be another reason (Ledergerber and
Kurt, 2003). Granstrand (1999) and others do offer valuable insights and guidelines as
to how ﬁrms should devise their patent strategy, but the literature still shows blind
spots as relevant aspects are not covered, and no overarching perspective is offered
under which the contributions about patent strategizing may be brought together.
Such an umbrella would provide insight into how issues related to patent strategizing
relate to one another. This paper aims to contribute to the construction of such an
integrated insight of importance to both practitioners and academics.
Firms that develop a patent strategy face several degrees of freedom for which they
can conceivably make a strategic decision. The paper provides a coherent list of these,
and discusses each. This is not an exhaustive list, and the extent to which a particular
ﬁrm in a particular industry indeed faces the degrees of freedom to the same extent as
others do can vary. Nevertheless, we believe that a discussion of these degrees of
freedom will assist management. In conjunction with this, we discuss the level within
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Journal of Intellectual Capital
Vol. 12 No. 2, 2011
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited