|Download the Original Research Paper|
Then I started to read a Research Paper published in October 2010 and prepared for the IPO to help inform the UK IP policy and funding for the third mission of British Universities. Academic research, it seems to me, has to be intractable to ordinary mortals. After reading the articles mentioned in the four pages of bibliographic references, it is perhaps not surprising that the view from the CEO's desk has receded far from view. The paper informs me that patent activity by Universities was introduced and encouraged to promote knowledge transfer. Now, as a useless patent agent, I have assumed it was so Universities could secure some financial reward for their innovation. In case you doubt me there are even references in the correct academic format to Romer, 1990.
The interesting bits I found were that the direct costs of IPR usually exceed revenues and many University Technology Transfer Offices struggle to be profitable. In short there is a lot of ammunition in this paper that would encourage removal of funding from the TTOs which are supporting quite a few patent agents. Because of the need to read all that bibliographic material, the researchers only had time to talk to three universities, of which only one (unnamed) could have made much value from patents as the others were a social sciences college and a former polytechnic. Hopefully there will be some of those IP Strategists that Jane promotes to advise the IPO on how it should take such inputs and pass them on to Government.
From my personal observations, I tend to agree that IP does inhibit knowledge transfer, but not because of its existence, but because of the endless bickering over ownership, filing strategy and licensing terms which can mean industry gives up using certain University departments that could be very helpful to them. Such anecdotes sadly don't count in the world where Political decisions are driven by Academic Evidence.
IP, especially the hard stuff, is vital if there is going to be economic benefits of UK science fed back into the UK Treasury. So often, however, Universities are wasting money on patents before any use of the technology has been identified or in areas where the market is far too small. It seems to me that patent agents are in a good position to contribute to the debate. However when submissions are made by the big firms or professional bodies they are all too easily dismissed as being driven by commercial self-interest. Here,maybe, SOLOs may have an advantage.