Managing Intellectual Property in Global Outsourcing for Innovation Generation
The globalization of markets and business operations is a trend that will continue strongly in the coming decades. One inescapable aspect of globalization has been the trend toward global outsourcing, especially that of knowledge-based services. Due to firms' compulsion to reduce costs in the developed world, the issue is not if a particular firm will outsource or offshore work but when it will outsource it and how effectively it will leverage outsourcing to achieve superior competitive advantage. An important implication of the outsourcing of knowledge-based services is the management of intellectual property (IP). Managers and researchers alike are interested in understanding the effects of global outsourcing of knowledge-based services on the management of IP. The challenge of accessing, exploiting, and defending IP in global outsourcing relationships is first examined in this paper. IP can be managed by balancing the trust and control and verification in the outsourcing relationship. Given that defending IP is a major concern for outsourcing firms, the moderating roles of multitier suppliers, supplier country legal regimes, and global supplier communities of practice on defending IP is examined in detail through moderating effect propositions. Finally, the paper examines the effect of accessing, defending, and exploiting IP in global outsourcing relationships on the generation of incremental and radical innovation for the outsourcing firm. This research tries to extend current academic research on global outsourcing in three ways. First, it offers a framework to understand the management of the buyer–seller relationship in the global outsourcing of knowledge-based services and its relationship to the management of IP and innovation generation. Second, the framework takes a broader perspective of outsourcing and innovation generation, including globalization, tiered suppliers, supplier country legal regimes, and global supplier communities of practice on defending IP. Third the research examines the effect of accessing, exploitation, and defense of IP on generation of incremental and radical innovation for the outsourcing firm. Managerial implications of this research and future research directions are also discussed.