Intellectual Property Rights and Competitive Positioning of Firms: New Practices and Elements for a French-German Comparison

By Rémi Lallement

For firms, the increasing importance of the knowledge-based economy implies a stronger link between their competitive positioning and their use of intellectual property rights (IPRs). A French-German comparison shows two main results. At the macro- and meso-economic levels the propensity to use the different types of IPR in Germany and France is to a large extent related to structural factors: the institutional framework, the sectoral composition, firm size or the average propensity to innovate. The high French/German contrasts on this regard explain why French firms on average file half as many patents as their German counterparts, but use as least as many or more trademarks or copyrights. At the microeconomic level the evidence shows on the contrary a global convergence between Germany and France with regard to the different uses of IPR by firms. The key point is the diverse roles played by the IPR system, mostly patents. In both countries, the traditional uses in terms of protection (anti-counterfeit protection, securing the freedom to operate) generally remain of utmost importance, but have gradually lost in significance. Conversely, more recent types of practices are growing, whether in a context of open innovation (coordination role within partnerships) or, more generally, for strategic purposes (blocking patents, deterrence aspects, etc.). Hence, the relative position of France regarding IPR use does not merely reflect passively the performance of French firms in terms of innovation or of exports. The IPR management capability is crucial for competitivity and, more generally, for dynamic firms seeking a better position towards competitors or partners. JEL codes: L24, O31, O34, O52, P52


  • intellectual property rights
  • patents
  • trademarks
  • industrial designs
  • international competitiveness
  • France
  • Germany
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