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How do firms protect their “knowledge capital”? socialization versus appropriation (Comment les firmes protègent-elles leur “capital savoir”? socialisation versus appropriation)


  • Blandine Laperche

    () (labrii, ULCO)


The purpose of this paper is to study the strategies implemented by firms to protect their knowledge base. Intellectual property rights – and notably patents - are the first tools that come to mind. Their rationale, since their origin, has been to give inventors some incentives and at the same time to facilitate a large diffusion of knowledge, so that the cumulative process of innovation may take place. However, due to this restriction, and also for reasons of cost, other tools than patents have been used by enterprises: one of the contributions of the paper is to show that firms use a whole set of tools to protect their knowledge capital. However, to assess properly the protection strategies implemented by firms implies to take account of today’s characteristics of elaboration of the knowledge capital by firms. We will see that, due to the profitability imperative, external means of formation of a knowledge capital are now of growing importance – even if in-house strategies are still essential. How do such strategies impact the way firms protect their knowledge capital? According to us, the recent trend to extend patenting possibilities to new fields (information technology, genetics) and closer to the scientific border is driven by the same profitability imperative. As firms are more and more open to their environment, they need to have a wider and stronger protection of their own knowledge base in which patents have a major part to play, even though they have important restrictions. We finally present the consequences of this growing contradiction between, on the one hand, the socialization of the knowledge capital and, on the other hand, its growing oligopolistic appropriation. L’objet de ce document est d’étudier les stratégies mises en oeuvre par les entreprises pour protéger leur capital savoir. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle – et notamment les brevets - sont les premiers outils qui viennent à l’esprit. Depuis leur origine, leur objet a été d’inciter les inventeurs et en même temps de faciliter une large diffusion des connaissances, pour que le processus cumulatif de l’innovation puisse exister. Mais, en raison de cette restriction, et aussi du fait de leur coût, d’autres outils, autres que les brevets ont été utilisés par les entreprises : l’une des contributions de cet article est de montrer que les firmes utilisent un ensemble d’outils pour protéger leur capital savoir. Toutefois, pour évaluer correctement les stratégies de protection des entreprises ; il est nécessaire de prendre en compte les caractéristiques actuelles de l’élaboration du capital savoir. Nous verrons que compte tenu de l’impératif de profitabilité, les stratégies externes de constitution du capital savoir ont une importance grandissante, même si les stratégies internes sont toujours essentielles. Quels sont les impacts de telles stratégies sur la façon dont les entreprises protègent leur capital savoir ? Selon nous, la tendance récente d’étendre les capacités à breveter dans de nouveaux domaines (technologies de l’information, génétique) et plus proches de la frontière scientifique est conduite par le même impératif de profitabilité. Comme les firmes sont plus ouvertes sur leur environnement, elles ont besoin d’une plus large et d’une plus forte protection de leur propre base de savoir, où les brevets, malgré leurs défauts, jouent un rôle majeur. Nous présentons finalement quelques conséquences de cette contradiction croissante entre d’une part la socialisation de la constitution du capital savoir et d’autre part, son appropriation oligopolistique croissante.

Suggested Citation

  • Blandine Laperche, 2005. "How do firms protect their “knowledge capital”? socialization versus appropriation (Comment les firmes protègent-elles leur “capital savoir”? socialisation versus appropriation)," Working Papers 104, Laboratoire de Recherche sur l'Industrie et l'Innovation. ULCO / Research Unit on Industry and Innovation.
  • Handle: RePEc:rii:riidoc:104

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hagedoorn, John, 2002. "Inter-firm R&D partnerships: an overview of major trends and patterns since 1960," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 477-492, May.
    2. Patel, Pari & Pavitt, Keith, 1997. "The technological competencies of the world's largest firms: Complex and path-dependent, but not much variety," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 141-156, May.
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    4. Jay Pil Choi, 2003. "Pools and Cross-Licensing in the Shadow of Patent Litigation," CESifo Working Paper Series 1070, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Dimitri Uzunidis, 2003. "Les facteurs actuels qui font de la Science une force productive au service du capital Le quatrième moment de l'organisation de la production," Innovations, De Boeck Université, vol. 17(1), pages 51-78.
    6. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-1171, September.
    7. Nancy T. Gallini, 2002. "The Economics of Patents: Lessons from Recent U.S. Patent Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 131-154, Spring.
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    More about this item


    knowledge capital; property right; innovation; socialization; appropriation;

    JEL classification:

    • P14 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Property Rights
    • L19 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Other
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law


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