[EAS] Academic Patent Binge

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Mar 9 17:52:18 EST 2004

Subject:   Academic Patent Binge

Are the walls of academia tumbling down? Rearranging the masonry a
little may not be all bad, but who's in charge?  --PJK

(from INNOVATION, 31 December 2003)

CHI Research estimates that in 2002, 13 of the top 25 universities
in the  U.S. increased the number of patents they received by 50% or
more over 1997  numbers. The New Jersey research outfit ranks
universities by technological  strength (a measure derived from the
number of patents issued combined with  their relevance), and points
out that six of the top universities have seen  increases of 100% or
more in the last five years. The patent boom has  spawned a new crop
of university-sponsored startups, as well as netted a  financial
bonanza thanks to patent licensing revenues, according to the 
Association of University Technology Managers. Income from patents
has  boosted university revenues to $1.07 billion in 2001, up from
$699 million  in 1997. The trend has also changed the atmosphere at
universities, with  professors spending more time away from the lab
to consult with fledgling  startups and exploit their inventions.
"No longer are faculty satisfied  with publishing," says Mark
Coburn, director of the Office of Technology  Transfer at the
University of Rochester. "They have the sparkle in their  eye to
start their own business." (Technology Review Dec 2003/Jan 2004)

(from INNOVATION, 3 March 2004)

Scientific American columnist Gary Stix suggests that a nasty fight
over  biotech patent rights "demonstrates that a university is as able
as any  corporation to do anything in its power to continue milking an
 intellectual-property cash cow. In devising a strategy to maintain a
grip  on its blockbuster [patent], Columbia may even be able to teach
corporate  patent holders a few lessons." The battle is between
Columbia, on the one  side, and prominent U.S. biotech companies over
a method for inserting  human genes into hamster cells to identify
cells that will produce large  volumes of proteins from those genes.
Stix notes that Columbia received  $100 million in revenue from just
one year (1999) -- nearly 25% of the  university's entire research
budget. He continues, "The Columbia patents go  to prove that when the
stakes are high enough, an institution of 'higher'  learning can get
down and connive with the best of them." (Scientific  American Mar

More information about the EAS-INFO mailing list