How can MNEs benefit from internationalizing their R&D across countries with both weak and strong IPR protection?

Eva Mavroudi, Mario Kafouros, Fei Jia, Junjie Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although MNEs internationalize their R&D not only in developed countries but also in emerging economies that typically feature weak protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), it remains unclear how this strategic decision affects their productivity performance. This limitation has resulted in a rather incomplete understanding of why some MNEs become more productive through R&D internationalization while others do not. This study develops a new explanation, suggesting that R&D internationalization does not affect the productivity of all MNEs equally because of differences in the idiosyncratic way in which MNEs geographically distribute their R&D units across weak and strong IPR protection countries. In advancing this explanation, the study challenges the view that weak IPR protection is disadvantageous for MNEs by showing that (and specifying how) it: 1) increases the efficacy of MNEs’ internal R&D, 2) strengthens the advantages of accessing globally dispersed knowledge, and (3) improves MNEs’ ability to exploit cross-country differences in IPR protection. The study enhances understanding of the complex role of IPR protection, shifts scholarly attention from the degree of R&D internationalization to how MNEs should internationalize their R&D, and clarifies how the IPR context of their location choices matters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100994
JournalJournal of International Management
Early online date19 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2022


  • R&D internationalization
  • intellectual property rights (IPR)
  • knowledge spillovers
  • productivity performance
  • emerging economies


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