External approaches to new product development range from the acquisition of entire businesses to the acquisition of a single component needed for the internal new product development effort of the firm. The following external sources for new products are available to most firms.
- Mergers and acquisitions. Acquiring another company already successful in a field a company wishes to enter is an effective way of introducing products while still diversifying. Research suggests that mergers and acquisitions can take place between companies of various sizes and backgrounds and that first experiences with this process tend to be less than satisfactory. Even large marketers such as General Motors engage in acquisitions.
- Licenses and patents. A patent and the related license arise from legal efforts to protect property rights of investors or of those who own inventions. A patent is acquired from the US Patent Office and provides legal coverage for a period of seventeen years, which means all other manufacturers are excluded from making or marketing the product. However, there are no foolproof ways to prevent competition. There are two main types of patents: those for products and those for processes. The first covers only the product's physical attributes while the latter covers only a phase of a production procedure, not the product. The patent holder has the right to its assignment or license. An assignment is any outright sale, with the transfer of all rights of ownership conveyed to the assignee. A license is a right to use the patent for certain considerations in accordance with specific terms, but legal title to the patent remains with the licensor.
- Joint ventures. When two or more companies create a third organization to conduct a new business, a joint venture exists. This organization structure emerges, primarily, when either the risk or capital requirements are too great for any single firm to bear. Lack of technical expertise, limited distribution networks, and unfamiliarity with certain markets are other possible reasons. Joint ventures are common in industries such as oil and gas, real estate, and chemicals, or between foreign and domestic partners. Joint ventures have obvious application to product development. For example, small firms with technological resources are afforded an opportunity to acquire capital or marketing expertise provided by a larger firm.