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- Issue 81: April 2009
- Issue 80: March 2009
- Issue 79: February 2009
- Issue 78: December 2008
- Issue 77: November 2008
- Issue 76: October 2008
- Issue 75: September 2008
- Issue 74: August 2008
- Issue 73: July 2008
- Issue 72: June 2008

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Is IP Development at Universities a Wolf Dressed as a Sheep?

Garry Boyd
From an Intellectual Capital Perspective

Issue 77: November 2008
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Those that read these pages will recall (i2P September 2008) mention of the University of Western Australia V Gray case.
Universities are fast departing from the traditional “Learning/Teaching” persona by increasingly engaging in commercial activity by stealth. Research has always been a core activity within the intellectual walls of universities, and of course public research institutions, but there is growing activity in the area of the development of IP within these publicly funded walls.
Universities generally have long promoted the dissemination of their discoveries and assets so it is probable that as they individually develop their own IP portfolios the sharing and caring attitude will likely cease, because the commercial exploitation of IP is dependent on confidentiality.

It might be argued that universities have crossed a line of sorts by actively involving themselves in the commercialisation and development of IP, rather than transfer the knowledge into the public domain for the public good.
The use of public funds to indulge in the commercially fragile world of R & D and forming start-up companies to enter into the competitive commercial environment with the private sector should leave the Canberra bureaucrats wondering whether or not it was wise to take a chainsaw to university funding.

After all, for publicly funded research intended for use in the public domain to be converted to a private asset is not what makes the world go around smoothly.

It goes without saying that universities harbour the best brains in the country, they have the luxury of tapping into the whole gambit of expertise required to run a successful business.
In the real business world these expertise are not cheap, so universities are in possession of an advantage few can match, other than the huge multi-nationals that reside in the office towers………..although in today’s shaky financial climate even the monoliths are hurting.

Will universities benefit from an economic downturn because they are wrapped up in a financially sheltered workshop?

The assumption of course that a university has developed a product that will not infringe another in the real world. The probability of a university causing tension in the private sector is almost a given seeing they are involving themselves in R & D and software.

In our little incestuous world of pharmacy, many seek to control the provision of software.
From the PGA to invaders across the Pacific, it seems everybody is having a crack at getting a big foot in the door.
Electronic prescribing has Geeks salivating everywhere.

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has an Office of Business Management (OBM) to ensure all is well in their dabbling in the commercial world.
The function of the OBM is to guide researchers and students along the rocky path to commercialisation, in particular, commercial activity which is generated by way of intellectual property (IP) developed within the walls of the university.

The UWS has a policy of rewarding staff that have played a part in the development of the IP by distributing the proceeds of the commercialisation of the IP.

What a happy little financial hunting ground for lecturers!

Hey, guy’s, just turn up for work and potter around in the lab………..take your time, the taxpayer is footing the bill for your no doubt impressive salary.
Make a discovery at your leisure and start to develop an IP portfolio.
Next step, find a business in the real world willing to pay a bucket for your work and wait for the income to develop through royalties…….

As for the students that may have significantly contributed to the task, it seems there is no cigar for them.

Strange isn’t it, that staff are actively commercialising their work, apparently while teaching students.
I wonder if the OBM has given any thought to distributing royalties to participating students to assist in reducing HECS fees?

How utterly bizarre!

Imagine the high drama in the OBM if Sildenafil Citrate had been discovered at the UWS rather than the laboratories at Pfizer!

……….I hear the silence.

http://www.uws.edu.au/research/ors/research_development_redevelopment/research_and_consultancy_guidelines

Garry Boyd.

November 2008.


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