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.

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Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice
Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship

Chirico, F., Criaco, G., Baù, M., Naldi, L., Gomez-Mejia, L., & Kotlar, J. (2018). To patent or not to patent: that is the question. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice. doi:10.1177/1042258718806251