Public and private universities incur significant research costs every year on behalf of society as a whole. While some of these expenses are covered by government grants or financial support from corporate entities, others are borne entirely by these institutions of higher learning. Patenting key research findings can offer significant benefits for researchers and can offer added control over the uses made of this information.
Here are five key reasons for universities to patent their research.
Patents Can Increase Innovation
An article published by the World Intellectual Property Organization noted that patenting intellectual property allows universities to license their findings to companies in the commercial realm. This leads to added innovation as staff members at these firms build on knowledge already acquired to provide cutting-edge products and services to consumers. This can allow theoretical projects to become practical realities more quickly and can ensure the widest possible application of research where it can do the most good. University researchers can also be inspired to continue their efforts when they can see the results of their labor in the consumer marketplace.
Patents Can Promote Economic Growth
The passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 made it possible for non-profit institutions to patent and profit from their federally funded research. This was intended to promote economic growth by increasing the number of patents commercially licensed and put to use in the business environment. Before the Bayh-Dole Act was passed, roughly 28,000 patents were in government hands; fewer than 1,400 of those patents, however, had been licensed to commercial companies. By allowing universities to patent their research and sell it on the open market, the information produced by these institutions can increase productivity and profitability across the economic spectrum.
Patents Can Increase Control for Universities
Because both public and private universities can select the companies most suited to receive licenses for their patented research, these institutions can maintain a measure of control over the way in which their patents can be used. By choosing companies that are compatible with the mission of the university, top-level administrators can ensure that the research conducted at their institutions will be used for the betterment of society. This can provide real benefits not only for the companies that receive these patent licenses but also for the consumers who eventually purchase and use the products made possible by university research.
Patents Encourage More Practical Research
Universities have often been characterized as ivory-tower institutions that are effectively cut off from the realities of the business and consumer world. Patenting and licensing research can provide added motivation for administrators to select and fund practical projects with real-world applications. This can increase the value of university research for consumers and companies alike. By focusing on projects that show real promise in improving the lives of everyday citizens, universities can make the most effective use of their funding dollars. Pursuing practical results in the pharmaceutical field, for example, can often enhance treatment options for patients while holding down costs in the medical marketplace.
Patents Can Generate Funds for Further Research
While royalty checks are certainly part of the equation when patent licenses are granted, it often takes a number of years before the funds derived from these licensing efforts can recoup the original expenses of the research project. Nonetheless, the royalties for patents can provide additional support for ongoing and future projects. These added funds can also serve as seed money for potential areas of research that can inspire new donors to contribute. By showing that the work performed by university researchers has real and practical applications, institutions of higher education can demonstrate their ongoing value to potential contributors and federal agencies.
By patenting and licensing the research performed at their institutions, university officials can ensure the relevance of their discoveries while enjoying the financial rewards associated with royalty payments. This can provide much-needed breathing room for cash-strapped institutions while inspiring students and instructors to pursue the most beneficial paths for their ongoing research activities.