To patent or not to patent

That is the question. Intellectual property protection in family firms

Francesco Chirico, Giuseppe Criaco, Massimo Baù, Lucia Naldi, Luis R. Gomez-Mejia, Josip Kotlar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines family firms’ propensity to protect their intellectual property through patents. Building on the mixed gamble logic of the behavioral agency model, we theorize that family ownership has a U-shaped relationship with firm propensity to patent. Specifically, we argue that family firms’ desire to prevent losses of current socioemotional wealth (SEW) inhibits their propensity to patent until a threshold level of family ownership, beyond which the family’s SEW is secured and a greater focus on prospective financial gains attainable through patents is possible. We also suggest that environmental munificence moderates this nonlinear relationship such that a low-munificent environment accentuates the potentially detrimental (beneficial) effects of low-to-medium (medium-to-high) levels of family ownership on patents. We test our hypotheses on a sample of 4,198 small- and medium-sized family firms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-367
Number of pages29
JournalEntrepreneurship: Theory and Practice
Issue number2
Early online dateOct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental munificence
  • family firms
  • innovation
  • intellectual property protection
  • patent

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