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Knowledge protection in knowledge‐intensive business services

Ettore Bolisani (Department of Management and Engineering, University of Padua, Vicenza, Italy)
Marco Paiola (Department of Economics and Management, University of Padua, Padova, Italy)
Enrico Scarso (Department of Management and Engineering, University of Padua, Vicenza, Italy)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 12 April 2013




The purpose of this paper is to examine the issue of knowledge protection in knowledge‐intensive business services (KIBS). In particular, it addresses four research questions: do KIBS firms perceive the necessity to protect their knowledge? If so, do they protect it? What method (or combinations of methods) they typically use? What are the main factors affecting the approaches to knowledge protection adopted by these companies?


The paper illustrates and discusses the findings of a survey of 471 KIBS companies located in the Northeast of Italy and operating in three different sectors: IT Services, Design and Communication, Professional Services.


The study classifies the types of knowledge protection mechanisms and investigates similarities and differences in knowledge protection between KIBS operating in distinct sectors, having different size, and pursuing different knowledge management strategies.

Practical implications

The outcomes of the investigation can have some important implications from a managerial viewpoint. In particular, the study provides food for though to both CEOs of KIBS companies regarding the mechanisms of knowledge protection, and to policy makers about the possible public policies that may help companies to protect their competitive knowledge capital without hindering their networks of interaction.


The issue of knowledge protection is relatively new in the literature of KIBS, and findings are quite controversial. In particular, the state‐of‐the‐art research shows that there are some important gaps that the paper tries to fill.



Bolisani, E., Paiola, M. and Scarso, E. (2013), "Knowledge protection in knowledge‐intensive business services", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 192-211.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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