Patent News

Feb. 15, 2015

IP Watchdog: In Considering Patent Law Changes, Don’t Forget Impact on Universities, by Brian Pomper

This post originally appeared in IP Watchdog on February 15, 2015.

While there has been much written in the past months on efforts to change the U.S. patent system, there has been little focus on the vital role that the current patent system plays in supporting universities in conducting basic research and development (R&D). This university-driven R&D is a critical force in driving innovation, inventions and often startups that create jobs and promote American competitiveness.

Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Washington (UW) recently released a report that provides valuable insight into how university R&D spurs industry innovation and economic growth and highlights the need for careful consideration by Congress when thinking about any changes to our patent system.

The report notes that under current patent laws, “universities and faculty members are incentivized to actively pursue the transfer of new technologies to the private sector. Revenue generated through licensing agreements flows back to universities to support more research and education and cover patenting costs.”

University research and the innovation it generates are far more than an academic enterprise. As the report describes, it “is in itself a vital economic activity, “bringing in money from out of state and exporting value to the rest of the nation and world.” In FY 2010, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, research and development expenditures of Washington state’s institutions of higher education “totaled more than $1.5 billion…contributing nearly $2.4 billion to economic activity, and supporting 16,000 jobs in the state.” Remember, this report only focuses on the activities at two universities in one state. Imagine the economic impact across the country with hundreds of universities, billions invested and the significant number of jobs created and supported.