Patent News

Oct. 10, 2015

Los Angeles Times: How the UC system is making patents pay off, by Larry Gordon

This post originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 10, 2015.

As they consider ways to improve university revenues, campus administrators point to the life-saving hepatitis B vaccine, the nicotine patch that helps smokers quit their habit and the tasty Camarosa strawberry. Those patented innovations, all pioneered at the University of California, have earned the school system, and the faculty who developed them, more than $500 million.

As a result of these successes and others, colleges around the country are placing more attention and resources on helping researchers obtain patents for their inventions and then market them to private industry for what they hope will be lucrative licensing fees, royalties and stock holdings.

Throughout academia, many colleges are establishing and expanding offices that help with such “technology transfer,” hiring experts to advise faculty to become more entrepreneurial and even holding campus competitions for marketable ideas.

“It’s definitely the trend in academia,” said Fred Farina, Caltech’s chief innovation and corporate partnerships officer.

As federal research funding declines, universities’ licensing and startups are increasing significantly and adding to the national economy, according to a recent report by the Assn. of University Technology Managers. The survey of nearly 200 universities showed an 11% increase in the number of patents issued in 2014 over the year before, to 6,363, and a 34% rise, to 965, in the number of new commercial products begun at those schools.