Purpose – This study aims to present a timely description of the experience and intentions of EU firms regarding patent licensing and/or selling to China in a new era, where EU firms are taking a more open approach toward innovation and the Chinese institutional environment has been recently changed. Design/methodology/approach – The timing of this study provides opportunities to observe up-to-date perceptions of EU firms regarding their intentions and concerns about patent transactions to China right after the new Chinese Patent Law took effect in 2009. Firms from 12 European countries in various industries were surveyed through an online questionnaire. Findings – The paper finds that large and small EU firms are different regarding the openness of innovation measured by patent transactions; for those EU firms that are not interested in licensing or selling patents, most of them are not employing an open innovation model and IP infringement is still the primary concern. EU firms are most interested in selling obsolete technologies and licensing state-of-art technologies to China. Research limitations/implications – Owing to the small sample size, it is difficult to identify the differences in strategies and concerns across industries in the EU and to observe and statistically present the relationships between variables. Practical implications – This study renders practical guidance for both EU and Chinese firms that are already engaged in or will be interested in patent trade in the future. Originality/value – The timing of the research and the uniqueness of data ensure the originality of this paper, which contributes to the open innovation literature by addressing several important issues in international technology transfer to China.