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A strategic partnership is a formal alliance between two commercial enterprises, usually formalized by one or more business contracts but falls short of forming a legal partnership or, agency, or corporate affiliate relationship.
Typically two companies form a strategic partnership when each possesses one or more business assets that will help the other, but that each respective other does not wish to develop internally.
One common strategic partnership involves one company providing engineering, manufacturing or product development services, partnering with a smaller, entrepreneurial firm or inventor to create a specialized new product. Typically, the larger firm supplies capital, and the necessary product development, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities, while the smaller firm supplies specialized technical or creative expertise.
Another common strategic partnership involves a supplier / manufacturer partnering with a distributor or wholesale consumer. Rather than approach the transactions between the companies as a simple link in the product or service supply chain, the two companies form a closer relationship where they mutually participate in advertising, marketing, branding, product development, and other business functions. As examples, an automotive manufacturer may form strategic partnerships with its parts suppliers, or a music distributor with record labels.
There can be many advantages to creating strategic partnerships. As Robert M. Grant (2008, p. 44) states in his book Contemporary Strategy Analysis, "For complete strategies, as opposed to individual projects, creating option value means positioning the firm such that a wide array of opportunities become available". Firms taking advantage of strategic partnerships can utilize other company's strengths to make both firms stronger in the long run.
Strategic partnerships raise questions concerning co-inventorship and other intellectual property ownership, technology transfer, exclusivity, competition, hiring away of employees, rights to business opportunities created in the course of the partnership, splitting of profits and expenses, duration and termination of the relationship, and many other business issues. The relationships are often complex as a result, and can be subject to extensive negotiation.
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