The aim of this paper is to understand the relationship between the exploration and the exploitation of economic innovation. In this regard several theoretical hyphotesis are illustrated and empirically tested. After showing that the number of patents it's not a good predictor of economic exploitation, the article outlines three arguments of institutional kind that may help to explain why firms patent also if a highest number of patent has not economic consequences for firm's life. In the second part, the article addresses the problem of economic consequences of patents, showing that in this case institutional factors do not matter, while process variables play a specific role in explaining the economic effect of patents. Among process variables, it is illustrated the the extension of social network (number of people who participate in the patenting process) has a positive effect on the economic effect of patents, while economic variables do not have any significant effect.