The diminishing signaling value of patents between early rounds of venture capital financing

Sebastian Hoenen, Christos Kolympiris, Wilfred Schoenmakers, Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (SciVal)


A long stream of research has documented the positive effects that patents bring about to emerging firms in high technology industries. The general consensus is that patents contribute to firm growth because they confer monopolistic market rights, offer protection from competitors, increase the negotiating position of patent holders and other benefits. What has received relatively less attention in the literature is whether patents act as a signal that attracts investors such as venture capital firms. The handful of studies that have addressed that question has not analyzed whether the signaling function of patents decreases after the initial attraction of venture capital, as information asymmetries between investors and target firms reduce. In this study we hypothesize that patent activity has a signaling value that diminishes once information asymmetries between investors and funded firms lessen. To study our proposition we draw upon a longitudinal dataset of more than 580 U.S.-based biotechnology firms to empirically demonstrate that biotechnology firms that have submitted patent applications substantially increase the level of funding they receive for their first round of financing. In line with a reduction of information asymmetries once the initial investment has materialized, patent applications and granted patents have no effect on the growth of venture capital funds raised during the second round of financing. We conclude the study with a discussion of avenues for new research, implications for policy makers that consider the usefulness of the current patent system and with insights that can be employed by managers of firms in knowledge intensive areas such as biotechnology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-989
Number of pages34
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number6
Early online date28 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Biotechnology
  • Information asymmetries
  • Patents
  • Signal
  • Venture capital


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