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There has been much research interest in the speed of innovation, although few consistent findings have emerged. We unpack the innovation process, focus on the commercialization stage and examine the determinants and impact of the speed of technology licensing. More specifically, using data for the biopharmaceutical industry, we examine: Which licensor and patent characteristics determine the speed of licensing? How does the speed of licensing impact the post agreement payments to licensors? We address these questions using a theoretical premise based on the effects of licensor prominence (size and experience), licensor knowledge structuration (technological depth, technological breadth and experience), and patent appeal (forward citations, scope and complexity). We predict and find that strength in these variables helps licensors discover and be discovered by licensees, resulting in a wealth of agreement options and a strong licensing-out position for licensors. This not only increases the size, complexity and duration of the licensing out-task, but allows licensors to take their time to review, negotiate and select the most attractive offer. This finding is counter to arguments for a fast-paced innovation strategy, as it suggests that the commercialization stage of the innovation process rewards a ‘less haste, more value’ approach.
To understand why some patents get licensed and others do not we estimate a portfolio of firm- and patent-level determinants for why a particular licensor’s patent was licensed over all technologically similar patents held by other licensors. Using data for licensed biopharmaceutical patents, we build a set of alternate patents that could have been licensed-in using topic modeling techniques. This provides a more sophisticated way of controlling for patent characteristics and analysing the attractiveness of a licensor and the characteristics of the patent itself. We find that patents owned by licensors with technological prestige, experience at licensing, and combined technological depth and breadth have a greater chance at being chosen by licensees. This suggests that a licensor’s standing and organizational learning rather than the quality of its patent alone influence the success of outward licensing.