Mick Stadler writes a letter in 1976 on effective transfer mechanisms

Transfer must provide eight services

  1. Fulfill needs of inventor - alternatives if technology is unlicensable
  2. Mechanism needs to provide the means to understand the economics and problems inherent in commercialization and emphasize the patent as the vehicle necessary for the industrial interface
    Conventional wisdom is that patents provide monopoly positions without which companies will not develop inventions into commercial products and without such products public research money is wasted - this prevents using patented things for anything except money
    Mostly, patent exclusivity isolates a university, teaches industry to ignore university research or avoid it, and leaves universities to cultivate relationships with patent speculators
  3. The mechanism must be cost-effective for everybody involved.
    In the present approach of default exclusive licensing, even the best universities (or luckiest) find a lucrative winner once a decade, or once every 2,000 inventions. While spending $20+ (or $40+ or $60+) million on patenting and more on salaries and space in the hope of winning big ten years or more down the road might end up being a net positive, it is hardly “cost-effective.”
    inventors were directed to ask Research Corporation to manage their inventions. As an external agent, Research Corporation could be selective and pay for those inventions that it did see a future for within its expertise and relationships. The companies obtaining access via Research Corporation would pay royalties and those royalties would cover the cost of patenting–
  4. The mechanism must provide help to university patent administrators

Current university patent offices can’t specialize in helping things get licensed

  1. The mechanism should provide an evaluation by a specialist who sees dozens or hundreds of disclosures in an area per year
    . If they all want to be rich, and they use patents to block everyone else, then they create gridlock for two decades. All the worse if the federal government smells a hot area of inquiry and throws lots of money at it, spread around to many organizations in many regions, dispersing talent, fragmenting rights, and then humping everyone up to all *commercialize* their little gobbets of inventive froth using patent monopolies.

  2. The mechanism should provide for the widest possible dissemination of the university’s technology. License agreements are only one way to transfer technology. Joint ventures, research contracts, fellowships, consulting agreements are other ways.
    having ten companies to provide instruction to over a new discovery rather than one, or picking only one, changes–crucially–the default strategy for widest possible dissemination. One adopts social network strategies. One builds on NIPIA–non-IP intangible assets–such as lots of relationships (not IP, but NIPIA)

Perhaps then you begin to see how damaging a default position is to deal first in patent monopolies. One suppresses the early adopting user communities. One turns away companies that would otherwise form working relationships. One creates a bureaucratic mess, an impossible, damaging mess. Multiply this same mess across thirty universities all working in the same area, none of them willing to give up the vanity of making millions from their little piece of action by somehow dominating an entire industry with a patent.

Behind all this is the tyranny of the university patent royalty sharing schedule. University licensing offices get set up to run on licensing income. They end up trying to divert relationships into licensing relationships. Shut down free. Shut down consulting. Shut down faculty starting companies on their own. Shut down students getting jobs in industry to practice what they have learned in inventive labs. Force all this to go through a bureaucracy of low-volume administrators stuck on exclusive licenses. That way, the licensing income will (so the fool’s theory goes) go up and technology transfer will have demonstrated its financial importance to the university as a source of research funding. That was–in a rather different form–the idea in 1960 when the University of California formed its own patent licensing office. But now federal funding dominates university research, and whatever licensing money goes to research after costs is scraps and so uninteresting that universities mostly don’t bother to track what research it supports or what comes from that research. And never report publicly. Whatever the idea was in 1960, it’s a dumb, empty idea now, a zombie idea that apparently refuses to die and eats university patent administrators’ brains.

  1. The mechanism should provide government agencies with a Eans for communiicating with universities on policy and regulations pertinent to patents.
    Part of the problem, at least, is that university administrators do not necessary represent the “university.” If a university has a diversity of means to transfer technology, then those involved in research ought also to have some voice in transfer. Even here, however, things get hairy–researchers seem to want more research funding more than they want to switch over to focus on teaching others just how to use what they have discovered. It may well be that federal agencies should require university researchers to take a break from federal funding after six years for at least three years, get a life, and to get more federal dollars, show what they have done with their non-federal life. Research, transfer, then do more research. Not research more, and more, and more for ever. Research ought not be a sinecure. Call it term limits for federally funded research.

  2. Finally, the mechanism should provide insights for the university in helping to establish an industrial interface.
    Otherwise, a university ends up operating as a contract research organization that sweeps up all IP rights for the benefit of its clients, but then in an ugly twist turns on that client and demands payment for the IP as if the client had not just funded the research that generated the IP

Providing guidance in dealing with industry contracting means more, then, than passing around template agreements.Nobody has any idea what the affordances of human systems are

Institutional attorneys mainly want stuff to not happen. They get blamed for anything that goes wrong and rarely get the recognition for moving things along outside “the box.” Other administrators want things to happen only one way–they want the appearance of order.

Published

Questions

  • Are there examples of things that would be useful for a company to do research but were prevented by patents?
  • Are there examples of “patents all blocking each other per quote in part 5?

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