Many people cite Winston Churchill as saying that “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” But there is a key word they’re leaving out of that quote. Churchill was decrying “foolish consistency.” I agree with him, and I’ll go further. In technology licensing, inconsistency is foolish and a waste of time.
Sure, every deal is different. But there is much to be gained from standardizing your technology commercialization process as much as you can and then post that process information on the technology transfer office’s website.
Empower your innovators: Most TTOs are servants to two masters: potential licensees and the researchers developing the innovations that attract them. For the latter, provide guidance, forms, and other useful information, facilitating innovator participation in technology transfer. For example, the website for MIT’s Technology Licensing Office has a lot of well organized information for the “MIT Community.”
Make it easier, clearer for your licensees: Create and post checklists and the steps in your process online. Being clear and straightforward about your process ingratiates you to potential licensees. It also helps ensure that the same prospect doesn’t come into your organization two different times and experience two different processes. That kind of inconsistency does not reflect well on your organization. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) website provides a great example of useful process information for potential licensees.
Increase your staff’s productivity: Post information that clearly lays out your office’s process and procedures. Rather than have your staff spend an hour repeating the process to each prospect or innovator, wouldn’t you rather they do something more valuable with that time? Philips, for example, has loads of information about its licensing programs on a very well organized website.
Eliminate the dead ends early: Post a basic standard form with a term sheet. If you and your prospect can’t come to agreement on something as simple as that, there is no point in proceeding into negotiations.
Speed up negotiations: Develop a robust standard licensing agreement. A well-thought-out template that covers all possibilities dramatically speeds up negotiations. UNC got a lot of coverage for their Carolina Express License Agreement and WARF provides several sample agreements.
(Editor’s note: Laura Schoppe commented more on this topic in her March 7, 2011, post “Ready-to-Sign Licensing Agreements: Does One Size Fit All?”)
Avoid trouble later: Document your rules to help ensure that potential licensees fully understand what they’re getting into, avoiding unpleasant surprises later. Making things up as you go along or having every staff member doing things differently is a recipe for disaster later on, when changes and confusion are more expensive in terms of time and risk to the deal.
These approaches go a long way to streamlining your TTO’s work.
In what ways has your office streamlined your technology licensing process?
Next (and final) post on the PRISM topic: Measure
–By Laura A. Schoppe