Long, V. (2019). IPRs and Appropriability in the Digital Era: Evidence from the Swedish Video (Computer) Games Industry. Wokring Paper no. 329. Stockholm: Ratio.
This study contributes to a meso (industry)-level understanding of the changing complexity of the general appropriability conditions in the digital era on the one hand, and the role of IPRs in that (appropriability) on the other hand, through a study of an industry sector – the Swedish video (computer) games industry – where digital distribution prevails and IPRs are important (copyrights in derivative works; trademarks in game titles).Combining analyses on EPO patent data, EUIPO trademark data, firm-level interviews and survey data, this study firstly identifies a paradoxical development: on the one hand, there is a clear digital take-off of IPRs’ propensity, namely firms tend to be more active in registering trademarks and valuing their copyrights (firm size and technological platform matter though). On the other hand, the digital traits – digitally induced high levels of interactivities (between supply and demand) and the digital division of a product (in provisions) – provide strong protections (to the innovation) from a technical standpoint, which offsets the importance of IPRs. Then what are IPRs for, in a technologically tight appropriability regime? This study further identifies that the increase of the importance of IPRs is not derived from IPRs’ protection function, but from their signalling function. In the digital era, new products easily disappear in the digital crowd, and IPRs can act as an important remedy by signalling the origin and quality of products as well as new innovations. This study provides a snapshot of the digital complexity pertinent to the issue of appropriability.