Patents: Universities profit from products

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
502,
Page:
448
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/502448b
Published online

We believe that the return on investment for universities' intellectual property is enormous — and not only about the bottom line (see Nature 501, 471472; 2013).

The 1980 Bayh–Dole Act sparked a revolution in US academic innovation by allowing universities to keep their federally funded intellectual property. This has led to more licensing income and royalties for inventors, better funding opportunities as a result of wider research collaborations, and an increasingly entrepreneurial academic culture. Society has benefited from applied research into global challenges, such as health and the environment, from an economy strengthened by licensing revenue and from the well-paid jobs that have been generated by university start-up companies.

Across the United States, universities create an average of two start-ups a day, which tend to last longer and attract more investment than non-university start-ups (see go.nature.com/ojq3fx). A survey by the Association of University Technology Managers in Deerfield, Illinois, revealed that 82 federally funded institutions achieved net product sales of US$36.8 billion in the 2012 fiscal year (see go.nature.com/vgtjk4). Among institutions surveyed, the number of cumulative active licences also increased to more than 40,000, and more than 5,000 US patents and almost 6,400 licences and options for new technologies were issued during the year, with 705 start-up companies formed and 591 consumer products created.

University patenting and academic technology transfer have certainly paid off.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. University of South Florida, and National Academy of Inventors, Tampa, USA.

    • Paul R. Sanberg &
    • Valerie L. McDevitt

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Author details

Comments

  1. Report this comment #60558

    Sylvain Ribault said:

    These numbers prove nothing — and surely not that patents are needed for research-based innovation. Even if patents benefit universities, do they benefit society? and do the benefits outweigh the costs of the paperwork and lawsuits?

  2. Report this comment #60559

    Sylvain Ribault said:

    These numbers prove nothing — and surely not that patents are needed for research-based innovation. Even if patents benefit universities, do they benefit society? and do the benefits outweigh the costs of the paperwork and lawsuits?

Subscribe to comments

Additional data