Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Information Systems

First Advisor

Arun Rai

Second Advisor

Deepa Varadarajan

Third Advisor

Sean Xin Xu

Fourth Advisor

Ling Xue


This dissertation uses the lens of intellectual property rights (IPR) to challenge the Information Systems (IS) field’s conventional view of a patent as a knowledge asset. It shows how IS scholars can leverage the IPR perspective to generate insights into digital innovation and how those insights can inform innovation policy, which establishes the regulatory governance framework for the digital innovation ecosystem.

Essay 1 aims to shift the focus of the literature on the production of digital innovation to the examination of digital patents. It surfaces (a) the critical beneficial influence of patent examiners’ feedback—that is, why the claims of inventors’ past applications have been rejected—on inventors’ success in gaining subsequent digital patents and (b) how that benefit is subject to two key aspects of examiners’ feedback—temporal and technological. Essay 1 therefore informs a debate among scholars and policy makers regarding the expertise of patent examiners in digital patents.

Essays 2 and 3 turn to the value creation of digital innovation, in which patent owners generate rent from their patents at the expense of social welfare. Specifically, Essay 2 joins the discussion on patent thickets—the overlapping of firms’ IPR that may restrict their commercialization of their own inventions—while addressing the formation of patent thickets in the IT industry, in which firms are racing to assemble large patent portfolios. Results indicate that the knowledge spillover to competitors generated by a focal IT firm’s patent disclosure can increase the level of patent thickets. Such impact depends on two key characteristics—the value of the focal firm’s disclosure and the absorptive capacity of that firm’s competitors. Essay 2 therefore uncovers the crucial role of disclosure for the optimal policy design to address patent thickets.

Essay 3 connects with the recent conversation on the role of crowdfunding in democratizing venture capital (VC) financing, while differentiating itself by addressing the IPR threat from a patent assertion entity (PAE), which is in the business of asserting digital patents. Results indicate that state anti-PAE laws are crucial in realizing two crowdfunding benefits: attracting VC investment into the state and diversifying the investments across industries within the state. Essay 3 thus surfaces the critical role that institutional governance of IPR risk plays in achieving crowdfunding benefits.


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