This paper contributes to the literature on innovation policies and institutional theory on conditions for effective institutional changes. The ＂three rights＂ reform of 26 universities and the mixed ownership reform of Southwest Jiaotong University are important explorations made by China in recent years to promote innovations and the commercialization of patents in universities. The two reforms have adopted different models in the allocation of university patent ownership. The former completely allocated the patent ownership to universities, while the latter allocated 70% of the patent ownership to the inventors. Based on Chinese patent data and university statistical data, we empirically test the effects of these two university-patent ownership allocation models on innovations and the commercialization of patents. We find that the institutional environment caused unexpected effects in both reform models. The ＂three rights＂ reform has a significant impact on patent-licensing in 26 universities. The mixed ownership reform has significantly increased the number of patent transfers and patent applications of Southwest Jiaotong University, yet has tilted R&D toward experimental research with relatively low creativity. The findings yield broader implications for organization and innovation.