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Intellectual Property Strategy Changes of Emerging Technology Companies: An Empirical Study of Synthetic Biology Companies



Change log


Tang, Aocheng 


Intellectual Property (IP) strategy is considered to have a growing importance for technological companies. There has been an increasing interest in IP management and strategy from both academia and industry. Most studies have focused on how IP and innovation are protected, and the motives behind the protection of IP. The empirical studies in this field often appear to consider IP strategy as static, and hence have led to a notable lack of attention to its dynamic aspect. Since technologies and industries around the world are developing at an unprecedentedly fast pace, companies’ IP strategy decisions should be more dynamic than ever. Therefore, the dynamic aspect of IP strategy, especially its changes and evolution, should be further explored. Emerging technologies are often associated with characteristics such as newness, rapid growth and uncertainty, which indicate that companies that work with these technologies are in a very dynamic and constantly changing environment. Even though considerable research has explored strategic change in companies, including those with emerging technologies, very few researchers have paid attention to the IP strategy changes of these companies. This research set out to improve the understanding of IP strategy and emerging technology by analysing the IP strategy of emerging technology companies from a dynamic perspective. In order to achieve this goal, this study explored the types, antecedents, impacts and the overall evolution of IP strategy changes made by emerging technology companies. The research set out to achieve its objectives through two approaches: the single-transition analysis of three key transitions based on an industry emergence model and the cross-transition analysis with the assistance of the IP strategy change framework. The single-transition analysis of the types of IP strategy changes resulted in a framework with four dimensions: the change of volume, the change of territory, the change of openness and the change of aggressiveness. The cross-transition analysis further expands the findings by identifying four types of IP strategy change trajectories: the overall open type, the mixed openness type, the U-turn type and the hybrid type. The single-transition analysis of the antecedents of IP strategy changes resulted in a framework with five dimensions: finance-related, R&D-related, product-related, market-related and management-related antecedents. Apart from the framework, two key propositions related to the antecedents were raised in the cross-transition analysis. The propositions state that the changes and trajectories of emerging technology companies’ IP strategies tend to be influenced by the nature of the company’s core technology and the need to raise investment. The single-transition analysis of the impacts of IP strategy changes resulted in a framework with three impact levels: beyond-expectation impacts, in-expectation impacts and below-expectation impacts. The study also analysed the data on the reasons behind the impacts of IP strategy changes. The results suggested that, in all three transitions, the impact of IP strategy changes can be influenced by the coherence and awareness of IP strategy across the company. This research contributes to theory specifically in the realms of IP strategy, emerging technology model and path dependence. First, the novel IP openness framework developed in this thesis contributes by providing a framework to categorise the openness of IP strategy with respect to inbound and outbound openness. Moreover, the study also contributes to the IP strategy literature with the frameworks that categorise the types, antecedents and impacts of IP strategy changes. The IP strategy roadmap and the IP strategy trajectory provide theoretical frameworks in the fields of IP strategy, strategic change and technology emergence. In addition, the frameworks developed for the types and antecedents of IP strategy changes further expand the literature on the management of emerging technology companies. This research also theoretically contributes to path dependence research by developing and defining a novel concept of IP strategy trajectory. Apart from these contributions to theory, this research also provides methodological contributions in two ways. First, this research established a method to create and iterate a visualisation roadmap for qualitative data collection and data analysis of a continuous action along the timeline. Second, this research established a method to design a visualisation tool for changes and evolutions. Finally, this research adds to the IP strategy management toolkit by providing three practical instruments: an assessment framework for IP strategy openness, a roadmap to track and analyse the IP strategy changes, and a list of factors that can influence the impact of IP strategy changes.





Tietze, Frank


Emerging Technology, Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Strategy, Strategy Change, Synthetic Biology


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
ESRC (1980262)
Cambridge Trust; UK Economic and Social Research Council