This article pursues a detailed understanding of strategic considerations in large-scale partnership negotiations that have implications for public service over the long term. Specifically, this study focuses upon the strategic context of negotiation between governmental entities and private firms as fundamental to partnership viability. Metaphorical comparison between U.S. patent policy (especially as it pertains to cutting-edge biotechnical and digital information issues) and public–private partnership is used to coax out new insight about the latter. The first section sketches an outline of U.S. patent policy as a means of generating analogous questions that can structure discussion of strategy in public–private partnerships. The second section explores the intricacies of public partnership by responding to four questions derived from the patent metaphor. In probing the implications of strategic partnership issues for public managers, the final section defines new capacity-building roles that are consistent with governance as an emerging form of public administration.