Purpose: Patents as one of the important components of intellectual capital are emerging as a new source for mining insights on open innovation (OI) practice of the organizations. Their role in value creation through collaboration and the inter-firm differences is yet to be explored in depth. Design/methodology/approach: To achieve the aim, survey data is analyzed to rank OI practices (collaboration) of the firms, while patent data are analyzed to carry out descriptive and bivariate analysis to study the inter-firm differences in collaboration. Findings: The survey findings highlight mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and patent pooling as the top two preferred modes of OI, while from patent data M&A has emerged as a predominant OI practice for mainly nonresident firms. At the firm level characteristics, out of firm age, number of granted patents and firm size, firm age has been found to be somewhat significant in few cases of OI practices. Research limitations/implications: It provides an alternative source, in this case patent data to study open innovation capabilities of firms in India. There is contribution to the patent value theory from profit motive to deriving strategic decisions on collaboration. Practical implications: The managerial implications of this study lie in realizing granted patents as important business tools for seeking collaboration, tracing competitive intelligence and the geography of innovation of the firms' competitors. Originality/value: The dataset of granted patents at the Indian Patent office (2005–2017), the sample of pharmaceutical firms drawn from this list of patents, patent data– based OI insights and the use of multiple imputation technique to missing data for meaningful insights are some of the unique aspects of this paper. © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.