Why do firms give away their patents for free?
Journal article, 2014

Within the trend of increasing patent commercialisation and open innovation, a recent phenomenon where firms give away their patents free of charge can be observed. This seems contradictory to the original intention of the patent system (enabling firms to create temporary monopolies to appropriate returns from their R&D investments). Consequently, this paper explores why firms make their patents available for free and which benefits they may gain from this behaviour. Adopting the open source software phenomenon as a background and using firm data from 26 patent release cases, we identify a typology consisting of four motives of 'free patent release approaches': profit making, cost cutting, innovation catalysing, technology providing. Further, we discuss the motives of these firms to offer their patents as 'open source'. We find that firms may obtain valuable technological input for subsequent innovations as well as social benefits in return for their free patent release. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Cost cutting


Innovation catalysing

Technology providing

Patent pools

Profit making

Open innovation

Patent donation

Patent release

Intellectual property (IP)

Open source


Nicole Ziegler

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics

O. Gassmann

Universitat St. Gallen

S. Friesike

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

World Patent Information

0172-2190 (ISSN)

Vol. 37 19-25

Subject Categories

Other Natural Sciences



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