Controlling unique knowledge is of increasing importance to firms. Therefore, firms use knowledge protection mechanisms to prevent competitors from imitating their knowledge. We study the effects of the complexity of knowledge inputs that arises from open innovation on the importance of two widely used protection mechanisms: patents and trademarks. We argue that this complexity makes the threat of imitation less predictable, and thus makes knowledge protection more important. By analyzing survey data of 938 German firms, we find that patents are more important for firms in industries with higher knowledge input complexity. Furthermore, we show that the dynamics and not the level of knowledge input complexity positively affect the importance of trademarks.
Appropriability Strategy; Complexity; Imitation; Open Innovation; Patents; Trademarks