Thursday, February 03, 2005

ACADEMIC IP - PATENT OR PERISH? Universities' ability to augment their revenues by licensing patents from faculty research has sparked new discussion about the tension between teaching and research responsibilities.

The recent surge in research disclosures in American universities over the last 20 years or so has turned into a whole new enterprise. Particularly in the sciences, patents are gaining new prominence - and ideas that are successfully patented have become an important source of revenue for universities.

For example, at Tufts University, if a professor submits a research disclosure of patent potential, the worth of the disclosure is determined in a three-person dialogue including the professor who made the disclosure, an administrator and a patent attorney.

If a professor's patent is licensed by a business, any income received is divvied up. 40 percent goes to the investigating professor who originally made the disclosure, 20 percent is given to the professor's department, while 20 percent goes to the professor's school and 20 percent to Tufts' general fund.

Since 1999, Tufts has earned $10,557,822 from the licensing of patents to private businesses, according to a survey by the Association of University Technology Managers. The year-to-year income, however, is unsteady. In 2003, the most recent year that numbers are available, Tufts only earned $738,331 from licensing. In contrast New York University reaped the most of the universities surveyed, earning more than $85 million.

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