les Nouvelles - June 2010


The Research-Oriented Approach To University IP: A Reinvention Of University IP Management Away From A Focus On Licensing To A Focus On Research

Michael A. Cohen

UC Berkeley, Office of IP & Ind Res Alliances Director, Acting, Berkeley, CA, USA

Offices that manage intellectual property (IP) at universities are scorned by some companies, venture capitalists, and even faculty at an IP office’s own university. These disapproving companies and investors criticize university IP offices as overly focused on licensing, and correspondingly extracting money from ventures that could otherwise use that money for the virtuous but challenging endeavor of trying to commercialize university innovations. These companies and investors are further irritated because many university innovations result from research funded by industry or public taxpayer dollars (via federal and state governments). To exemplify the extent of this criticism, one R&D VP at a leading U.S. technology company has characterized the “synergistic” relationship between U.S. universities and industry as “under siege” due to a “focus on licensing” and the resulting “antagonism.” The VP even relates the licensing focus of U.S. universities to issues with U.S. innovation and competitiveness in the global economy!

Likewise, some faculty members view university IP offices as the agents of policies that excessively restrict faculty discretion as well as consulting and entrepreneurial opportunities. These disapproving faculty members see IP offices as largely bureaucratic policy police, and not surprisingly, they view their relationship with their IP office as adversarial.

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