Why use or forgo formal and informal appropriation mechanisms? A qualitative study of sustainable innovations from small- and medium-sized enterprises

Pablo Morales*, Meindert Flikkema, Carolina Castaldi, Ard Pieter de Man

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The role that appropriation mechanisms such as patents and secrecy play in sustainable innovation is currently being debated. In particular, we lack an understanding of the different motives behind using or forgoing specific appropriation mechanisms. Current knowledge is mainly derived from the general innovation literature, which emphasizes profiting from innovation. However, sustainable innovators also seek to positively impact the environment and society, which raises the question of whether existing appropriation literature also applies to sustainable innovation. We interviewed 42 business leaders from small-to-medium-sized enterprises concerning a recently commercialized sustainable innovation. The results indicate that known motives from the general innovation literature apply to sustainable innovation but also reveal motives specific to sustainable innovation. We also discovered motives suitable to all innovations, such as non-disclosure agreement motives extending beyond achieving secrecy. Theoretically, our findings suggest the profiting from innovation framework may also apply to sustainable innovation, even though the pursuit of profits is not the only motive of sustainable innovators. In practical terms, the results help sustainable innovators to craft an appropriation strategy, and policy-related opportunities arise for improving patent and trademark filing experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1937-1961
Number of pages25
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Volume33
Issue number3
Early online date29 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • appropriation
  • patents
  • sustainable innovation
  • trademarks

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