The adoption of digital technology in Industry 4.0 Intellectual property rights and the adoption of digital technology in Industry 4.0 in the context of the innovation ecosystem

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This research investigates how manufacturing companies manage intellectual property rights (IPR) during the adoption of digital technology, while operating in the innovation ecosystem. With the introduction of Industry 4.0, organizations increasingly go through a digital transformation in which the innovation ecosystem plays a central role. The collaborations between the different actors in the innovation ecosystem were analyzed to gain a better insight into how companies guarantee protection of IPR and safe knowledge exchange. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight informants, who were employed at six different organizations that were all concerned with the adoption of digital technology. The analysis shows that companies were sometimes deliberately neglecting both protective measures on foreground IP and protective IPR measures on the ownership of future IPR. Also, the decision to engage in either formal or informal protective IPR measures during the adoption process by means of patents is influenced by the position of a company on the spectrum of the paradox of openness. Lastly, a lenient approach to IPR management by companies positively influences the adoption of digital technologies throughout the entire innovation ecosystem. To conclude, this research shows that a company’s position on the spectrum of the paradox of openness in the innovation ecosystem influences IPR management decision making. If a firm has a lower orientation on the general interests of the innovation ecosystem, companies are less inclined to share knowledge and information on digital technology with other actors openly.
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