IP litigation is local, but those who litigate are global

Abstract

The importance of managing intellectual property (IP) on a global basis has been widely acknowledged by scholars and practitioners alike. However, we still have limited understanding of how multinational enterprises (MNEs) choose – among all the countries they do business in – where to file for IP protection and where they exercise their IP rights through litigation. In this study, we examine MNEs’ strategic choices of patenting and litigation locations through the lens of global competition. We argue that, while IP protection is local, relying on local policies and institutions, firms engaging in litigation are global. Thus, they prefer to litigate in the few countries with substantial track records to send strong signals to competitors elsewhere. This is particularly true for highly concentrated industries, where the same competitors face off in various countries, and for firms with radical innovations, which require expertise for a convincing verdict. We find supportive evidence of country, industry, and firm effects from extensive interviews with industry insiders and a comprehensive dataset documenting all the IP-related activities of Fortune Global 500 companies from 2007 to 2014. We discuss how the strategic choices made by global firms, in turn, influence the effectiveness of local policies and IP harmonization efforts across countries.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Mack Institute for Innovation Management and the Dean’s Research Fund at the Wharton School for their generous financial support.

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Correspondence to Karin Beukel.

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Accepted by Suma Athreye, Area Editor, 15 February 2018. This article has been with the authors for one revision and was single-blind reviewed.

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Beukel, K., Zhao, M. IP litigation is local, but those who litigate are global. J Int Bus Policy 1, 53–70 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42214-018-0002-3

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Keywords

  • intellectual property protection
  • patents
  • litigation
  • global competition