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Who Licenses out Patents and Why?: Lessons from a Business Survey


  • Maria Pluvia Zuniga
  • Dominique Guellec



The increasing importance of licensing for innovation is supported by ample anecdotal evidence. However, statistics on this topic are scarce. The OECD, together with the European Patent Office and the University of Tokyo, carried out a business survey on the licensing-out of patents. The goal was to investigate the intensity of licensing to affiliated and non-affiliated companies, its evolution, the characteristics, motivations and obstacles met by companies doing or willing to license. The target population was patent holders: 600 European firms and 1 600 Japanese firms responded to the survey, in the second half of 2007. The results show that patent licensing is widespread among patenting firms: around one company in five in Europe licenses patents to non-affiliated partners, whereas more than one in four does so in Japan. The relationship between size of the firm and probability to license out is U-shaped: small firms and large firms are more likely to license out their patented inventions. In Europe, SMEs have more difficulties to license out their patents than large firms. The major barrier to licensing out patent markets is informational (identifying partners). Finally, we also find that more than one third of young European firms (born after 2000) deem patents as quite or very important to convince private investors and venture capitalists to provide them with funds. Qui licencie des brevets et pourquoi? : Enseignements d'une enquête L’importance accrue des licences de brevets pour l’innovation est attestée par nombre d’anecdotes. Cependant, les statistiques sur ce domaine sont rares. L’OCDE, en partenariat avec l’Office européen des brevets et l’Université de Tokyo, a conduit une enquête sur les licences de brevets. L’objectif était de mesurer l’intensité de l’activité de licence avec les entreprises affiliées et non-affiliées (indépendantes), son évolution, ses caractéristiques, ses motivations et les obstacles rencontrés par les entreprises qui souhaitent licencier. La population couverte comprend les titulaires de brevet: 600 entreprises européennes et 1 600 entreprises japonaises ont répondu à l’enquête, conduite dans la seconde moitié de 2007. Les réponses montrent que les licences de brevets sont très courantes parmi les entreprises titulaires de brevets: environ une entreprise sur cinq en Europe, et plus d’une sur quatre au Japon, licencient des brevets à des partenaires indépendants. La relation entre taille de l’entreprise et probabilité de licencier est en forme de U: les petites entreprises et les grandes ont une plus grande propension à licencier leurs brevets. En Europe, les petites et moyennes entreprises rencontrent plus d’obstacles que les grandes lorsqu’elles souhaitent licencier. Le principal obstacle à la licence est d’ordre informationnel: identifier des partenaires. Finalement, on trouve aussi qu’un tiers des entreprises européennes nées après 2000 estiment que les brevets sont plutôt ou très importants pour convaincre les investisseurs et capital risqueurs de leur fournir des fonds.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Pluvia Zuniga & Dominique Guellec, 2009. "Who Licenses out Patents and Why?: Lessons from a Business Survey," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2009/5, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:stiaaa:2009/5-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Kani, Masayo & Motohashi, Kazuyuki, 2012. "Understanding the technology market for patents: New insights from a licensing survey of Japanese firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 226-235.
    2. Ambashi, M & Régibeau, P & Rockett, K, 2016. "Grantbacks, Territorial Restraints and the Type of Follow-On Innovation: The "But for..." Defence," Economics Discussion Papers 17805, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    3. Paul LUGARD, 2014. "The New EU Technology Transfer Regime, Like a Rolling Stone?," Communications & Strategies, IDATE, Com&Strat dept., vol. 1(95), pages 41-60, 3rd quart.
    4. Alfonso Gambardella & Dietmar Harhoff & Bart Verspagen, 2017. "The economic value of patent portfolios," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 735-756, December.
    5. Bottazzi, Laura, 2009. "The role of venture capital in alleviating financial constraints of innovative firms," EIB Papers 9/2009, European Investment Bank, Economics Department.
    6. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Helmers, Christian, 2013. "Innovation and diffusion of clean/green technology: Can patent commons help?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 33-51.
    7. San Martín Lizarralde, Marta & Saracho de la Torre, Ana Isabel, 2012. "Two-part tariff licensing mechanisms," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2012-59, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
    8. Krammer, Sorin M.S., 2014. "Assessing the relative importance of multiple channels for embodied and disembodied technological spillovers," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 272-286.
    9. Darcy, Jacques & Krämer-Eis, Helmut & Guellec, Dominique & Debande, Olivier, 2009. "Financing technology transfer," EIB Papers 10/2009, European Investment Bank, Economics Department.
    10. Harhoff, Dietmar, 2009. "The role of patents and licenses in securing external finance for innovation," EIB Papers 11/2009, European Investment Bank, Economics Department.
    11. Bronwyn H. Hall, 2010. "The Financing of Innovative Firms," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 1(1).
    12. Antelo, Manel & Antonio, Sampayo, 2017. "Licensing contracts and the number of licenses under screening," MPRA Paper 77252, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Oprescu Raluca, 2011. "The Journey To Competitiveness: Eu Speeding Up On The Road Paved With Knowledge And Innovation," Annals of Faculty of Economics, University of Oradea, Faculty of Economics, vol. 1(1), pages 118-124, July.
    14. repec:spr:scient:v:112:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2451-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Paul H. Jensen & Alfons Palangkaraya & Elizabeth Webster, 2013. "Trust, Incomplete Contracts and the Market for Technology," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2013n03, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    16. Amir, Rabah & Encaoua, David & Lefouili, Yassine, 2014. "Optimal licensing of uncertain patents in the shadow of litigation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 320-338.
    17. Martinez, Catalina & Zuniga, Pluvia, 2016. "Contracting for technology transfer: patent licensing and know-how in Brazil," MERIT Working Papers 065, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    18. Jensen, Paul H. & Palangkaraya, Alfons & Webster, Elizabeth, 2015. "Trust and the market for technology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 340-356.
    19. Kabiraj, Abhishek & Kabiraj, Tarun, 2017. "Tariff induced licensing contracts, consumers’ surplus and welfare," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 439-447.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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