Worth Reading: Biases, Funding, TTO Activities, IP Rights, Communication, and Trolls

We at Fuentek have run across some interesting items that I think you’ll want to read. In fact, we’ve decided to turn this occasional post into a monthly feature on our blog. Happy reading, and let us know what you think by posting a comment below or by sending us a private message via our Contact Us page.

How Universities Fail Women Inventors: This Businessweek article presents the results of an experiment showing that, given the same invention, tech transfer officers are less likely to spin off a company if the idea comes from a woman. As I noted in my comments, this bias is not surprising, though it may be unintentional. This situation can be avoided, at least at the early decision points, by removing the names from invention disclosures. This avoids not only possible gender bias but also other prejudices, such as giving a pass-through to prolific or popular professors or down-grading a technology from an inventor with a “difficult” personality. (Of course, using external professionals such as Fuentek for the market-based analysis and recommendation also avoids internal politics and popularity.) I am hopeful that the attention this article received will make our industry more cognizant of this tendency and work that much harder to avoid a repeat of these results in the future.

Getting Good Technology out of the Lab and into the Marketplace: Not only was this Center for American Progress article interesting, but it also sparked an interesting discussion in the AUTM® LinkedIn group. The article mentioned a proposal to allocate a percentage of federal R&D funding to ensure adequate support for university tech transfer activities. This is something we’ve advocated for government labs for a while, although there has been resistance because it means less funding is available for the actual research. University researchers also likely would find it a bitter pill to swallow. Further complicating things at the university level is that this funding approach, which likely would have to occur at the individual grant level, would create an expectation of commercialization for every technology regardless of market interest. If professors are losing a percentage of their research dollars to the TTO, they will expect/demand that a patent and licensing be pursued. (And who could blame them?!)

TTOs in the news: These articles about some interesting work going on at two tech transfer offices caught my attention:

US Competitiveness Report Shows Struggle with Balance of IP and Access: This Intellectual Property Watch article gives an excellent summary of the Commerce Department report The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States. The piece points out that reductions in the federal government’s share of funding for basic research has been decreasing, largely due to increased funding from the private sector. It also has an extensive discussion about intellectual property rights. You can download the report here.

Effective Communication: Although from several months ago, this presentation by GlaxoSmithKline’s Dr. Malcolm Skingle is worth downloading. It has some excellent take-aways:

  • Do your homework before engaging companies
  • Ensure that any documentation is electronic & succinct
  • Cultivate and use personal contacts
  • Actively engage your internal stakeholders at every stage of the deal-making process

Thanks to PraxisUnico for making it available!

“When Patents Attack!” Inforgraphic: Back in August we talked about this “This American Life” story. This infographic provides an interesting follow-up. I think it does a nice job of pointing out that it’s not patents but patent trolls that are the problem. I also appreciated the bits in #1 about the backlog at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which I’ve discussed before.

What are some of your favorite tech transfer articles?

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

2 Responses to Worth Reading: Biases, Funding, TTO Activities, IP Rights, Communication, and Trolls

  1. There are many reasons why the NPE (“patent troll”) business model has fast become dominant in the world of IP. Thomas Edison held over 1,000 patents, but practiced none of them. He invented, which is what he did best, and let others manufacture products from his inventions. If an inventor cannot sue for patent infringement and recover damages, they why should anyone invent anything? Only vigorous patent enforcement rewards inventors for their inventions and incentivizes others to invent.