Building upon an original survey of universities in the United Kingdom, this paper brings an original perspective to the debate on the motivations and effectiveness of academic patenting, and on the exchange of intellectual property (IP) using different protection mechanisms.
It seeks to analyze the extent to which the assumptions underlying the legislation that encourages the patenting of academic research outcomes on the part of universities (such as the much debated Bayh-Dole Act in the US) are justified. It does this by exploring the motivations (related to finance, innovation, strategic relationships, competitive advantage) underpinning the universities’ choice to engage in IP marketplaces. The paper also explores whether universities support the view, implicitly held by mainstream economics, that the patent marketplace is efficient or works automatically. It does this by investigating the obstacles (related to market search, transparency, contract negotiation and enforcement, as well as regulation problems) that are encountered when exchanging IP.
By considering a wide range of IP marketplaces (patents, copyright, open source and non-patented technology) and IP governance forms (e.g. alternative licensing forms), the paper builds a more complete picture of the activities and experiences of universities than that provided by the existing literature on university knowledge transfer, which usually focuses on just two main channels for IP transfer, namely patents and publications. This approach allows us to investigate questions such as: are patent rationales related to enhanced knowledge transfer and income generation also applicable to other non-proprietary IP? Do problems underpinning the patent marketplace also affect other forms of IP? Does the use of different IP marketplaces and of different IP governance forms confer specific advantages or obstacles to universities?