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The complexity of technological capital and legal protection mechanisms

Fernando E. García‐Muiña (King Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain)
Eva Pelechano‐Barahona (King Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 18 January 2008




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effectiveness of legal protection mechanisms to sustain competitive advantage and appropriate technological intellectual capital, taking into account its degree of complexity.


The empirical analysis was conducted on a sample of Spanish biotechnology firms, devoted to human and animal health, having a specific department for carrying on R&D activities from 2001 to 2003. The hypotheses were tested by non‐parametric techniques after collecting data by sending a questionnaire as the primary source of information.


The results show that the higher the complexity of technological knowledge, the greater the protection of intellectual capital against imitation. In addition, it is proven that legal protection is an effective means of protection against imitation only when technological knowledge has a low degree of complexity.

Research limitations/implications

Within the resource‐based view context, our results provide new empirical evidence about the great impact of the complexity of technological intellectual capital on evaluating the effectiveness of legal protection mechanisms and sustaining competitive advantage.


This research is of great value for strategic technological decision‐making. Although several studies present the theoretical conditions that explain how firms can create imitation “barriers”, the empirical evidence found is very scarce and controversial, especially for the Spanish biotechnology industry. The results obtained here offer new empirical evidence on the resource‐based view.



García‐Muiña, F.E. and Pelechano‐Barahona, E. (2008), "The complexity of technological capital and legal protection mechanisms", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 86-104.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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