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Archived updates for Thursday, October 21, 2004

How Universities are Using their Intellectual Property

According to an article in WIPO's October 2004 SME Newsletter by Mario Cervantes, an economist with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it typically takes 5 to 7 years for a university technology transfer offices ("TTO") just to break even.

While leading universities and public research organizations in countries such as the United States, Germany and Switzerland may earn millions of dollars or euros in licensing revenue, the gains are highly skewed ? a few blockbuster inventions account for most revenue. Furthermore, income from licensing academic inventions remains quite small in comparison to overall research budgets.

Nontheless, the number of new TTOs is growing at a rate of 1 per year per institution. And what is the impact of this new emphasis on technology transfer?
Quantitative studies tend to show that patenting has led universities to conduct more applied research. By making university research more responsive to the economy, is there a danger that basic research will suffer? On the one hand, several studies in the United States have found that universities and individual researchers that have seen the largest increases in patenting are also those which experienced the greatest gains in academic publications. On the other hand, the rate at which academic patents are cited in other patents fell (relative to the average) between the early 1980s and late 1990s in the United
States and is now lower than the citation rate of patents granted to business. This could suggest a possible drop in the quality of public research ? or at least of its patented component. Alternatively, it may reflect the inexperience of newly founded technology transfer offices.

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