In this Article, I argue that patents, if obtained and exploited strategically, can have a beneficial effect on university research. I will describe the barriers to university participation in the patent arena-that is, lack of money, lack of knowledge, lack of infrastructure, and cultural concerns-and explain, with reference to business, how and why universities need to overcome these barriers. By breaking down these barriers and ably exploiting their intellectual property, I argue that the obstacles to university research will be lessened, resulting in increased research and innovation. I further provide a primer to provide university administrators, technology transfer offices, and researchers with the information necessary to understand at least the "whys" of obtaining patents and an initial "how" for exploiting and maximizing the use of these patents. With reference to the patent management strategies provided by the authors of Rembrandts in the Attic, I argue that these can be adapted to address the barriers to the university patenting, as well as show how a coherent patent strategy can set up the university to overcome the obstacles of lack of access and lack of funding.
In particular, I will address the knowledge barrier faced by universities seeking to obtain and exploit their intellectual property rights. With this knowledge, the university can begin to overcome the other barriers, such as lack of money and cultural concerns. To further this goal, I propose implementing an infrastructure to facilitate the ability of universities to put into practice the suggestions inspired by Rembrandts in the Attic, as adapted for universities. This infrastructure includes an entity that will act as both an aggregator and analyst and will work in conjunction with a modified version of university technology transfer offices, addressing both the knowledge and infrastructure barriers. The modifications proposed for technology transfer offices are directed, in alternate part, towards removing the cultural barrier between researchers and patenting. The final barrier, lack of money, is intimately tied to the lack of funding obstacle. In theory, an appropriate patent management strategy will lead to increased revenue streams and potential lines of funding, which will alleviate both of these concerns. Finally, the infrastructure suggested includes provisions to address the access obstacle (and concurrently the cultural barrier), which also should be mitigated by the impartation of knowledge and the increased potential for funding. In Part II of this Article, I discuss the problems of university patenting in more detail. In particular, I review the literature directed to the obstacles related to lack of funding and lack of access, paying special attention to the role of patenting by the universities. In Part III, I determine what businesses know that universities do not, based on the principles and strategies from Rembrandts in the Attic.
In Part IV, I adopt and apply these principles and strategies to the university setting and propose an infrastructure for implementing these ideas. I explain how this proposal breaks down the barriers to entering the patent arena, overcomes or at least lessens the obstacles of lack of access and lack of funding, and ultimately leads to increased research and innovation. I conclude that universities should adopt a mindset more akin to big business when considering their intellectual property resources, thereby alleviating the access and funding obstacles, resulting in greater research and innovation.
Kristen Osenga, Rembrandts in the Research Lab: Why Universities Should Take a Lesson from Big Business to Increase Innovation, 59 Me. L. Rev. 407 (2007)