Universities Struggle To License Their Patents, In Desperation Team Up With Patent Trolls

from the exactly-wrong dept

A few months back, we wrote about the University of California’s plan to lock up even more knowledge in the form of patents, in the hope that this would bring in lots of cash. But as Techdirt has reported time and again over the years, patenting research does not bring in more money to fund further research, in fact it probably doesn’t bring in any money at all, once you allow for the costs of running tech transfer offices. Moreover, there’s evidence that making the results of research freely available is much better for the wider economy than trying to turn them into intellectual monopolies.

A recent article in Nature confirms that the whole idea of patenting research is pretty much a disaster — universities are now finding that after they have gone to all the trouble and expense of obtaining patents, nobody wants to license them:

Joy Goswami, assistant director of the technology-transfer office at the University of Delaware in Newark, estimates that only about 5% of patents are licensed at most universities. The rest are a drain on office resources, he adds, because of required maintenance and legal fees.

You might hope universities would draw the obvious conclusion — the underlying premise of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act that started this mad rush towards patenting university work was wrong — and go back to concentrating on producing and publishing great research. Instead, they are teaming up with patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures:

“As universities struggle to find revenue sources, one might worry that the monetization industry will be very tempting,” says Robin Feldman, director of the Institute for Innovation Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. There are already signs that this is happening, she adds. Last year, she published evidence that 45 universities around the world licensed or sold patents to Intellectual Ventures shell companies.

As the Nature article notes, that violates the spirit of a 2007 memo endorsed by more than 100 institutions, which offered guidance for ethical patent licensing, and specifically warned of the risks of dealing with “patent aggregators”. By selling their patents to outfits like Intellectual Ventures, universities risk completing their evolution from respected institutions that serve the public by sharing knowledge, to a bunch of desperate money-chasers that actively harm it by turning their discoveries into yet more ammunition for ruthless patent trolls.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Universities Struggle To License Their Patents, In Desperation Team Up With Patent Trolls”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

The USPTO does not provide what I would consider essential services. Shut it down.

They can not simply choose what to fund and what not to fund, that is not how it works. If that is the desired method then they should pass a law making it so.

They freely wag their finger at the public stammering about rule of law while blatantly violate it. But, I suppose this is nothing new is it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually moving patents into the university-sphere was a logical step to stop some of the brain-drain done by investers who grabbed the best researchers before they ended their education.

The problem is not the patents themself. The number of patents has simply become far too large for investers to sift through. That governemts in the world push for more patents is a sign of a the number-driven delusion that more patents are better patents and more patents are more innovation.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...