Protecting intellectual property in foreign subsidiaries: An internal network defense perspective

Yan Yan, Jiatao Li, Jingjing Zhang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines firm internal network structures as a defense of intellectual property rights (IPR) in high-risk environments with inadequate IPR protection. Specifically, we investigate firm social and knowledge-based network structures individually. A foreign subsidiary can intensify social complexity by strengthening the small-worldness in its collaboration networks and attenuate knowledge-relatedness by decreasing the small-worldness in its knowledge networks. In a subsidiary, the effectiveness of these measures depends to some extent on the parent firm’s experience in the host country. Longitudinal data on 401 foreign subsidiaries in the pharmaceutical industry from 1980 to 2017 have been analyzed in a quasi-experiment using difference-in-differences and two-stage regression. The results provide empirical support for these ideas. Findings highlight the explanatory power of internal network structures when discussing knowledge protection and show the utility of taking an internal network defense perspective in examining IPR protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1924-1944
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number9
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished Online - 7 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • intellectual property
  • internal networks
  • network theory
  • pharmaceuticals
  • small-worldness
  • subsidiaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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