University Of Copenhagen Giving Away Patents For Free... If You Have A Credible Plan

from the tech-transfer dept

We've talked in the past about the whole concept of tech transfer offices at universities. This was an idea that became popular a couple decades back, that universities, with all their researchers, could create a profit center by licensing or selling the patents that come from university research. The reality is that this has been a dismal failure. Most universities (like many patent holders who aren't actually building products in the marketplace) totally and completely overvalue their patents, making it completely uneconomical for anyone to license the patents. In the end, this has made the vast majority of tech transfer offices cost centers rather than profit centers. They hired lots of people, which is expensive, and they haven't seen much of a return on it.

Even worse, this focus on locking up knowledge and research from universities has been disastrous on actual advancement and the spreading of knowledge, which many of these universities claim is a key goal. Professors are told not to share results or data or plans with professors at other universities, for fear of "losing out" on a patent. The whole academic culture of sharing and building on each others' knowledge is held back tremendously. It's a huge shame.

Thankfully, a few universities are realizing this and are starting to push back. Last year, we noted that the University of Glasgow was freeing up most of its "intellectual property," for anyone who could use it. And, now, hrusha alerts us to the news that the University of Copenhagen (known as KU) is offering free licenses to anyone who can present a "credible" plan for bringing a product to market within 3 years.

It's not a totally open and free system, but it's certainly better than most. The encouragement on commercialization will hopefully help get the practical implications of the research out into the marketplace quickly. I'm not so sure how they determine what is and what is not a "credible plan," so hopefully they err on the side of granting such licenses whenever possible. Hopefully more and more universities will begin to realize that locking up research and expecting to get paid for it is a dead end road that goes against the core principles of most institutes of higher learning.
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Filed Under: copenhagen, free, ideas, patents

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  1. icon
    Casey Bouch (profile), 13 Jul 2011 @ 10:50pm

    Would the success of this system hurt or help the position that patents hinder innovation?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Nicedoggy, 13 Jul 2011 @ 10:58pm

    This just proves that IP without a market is no good at all, without the openness to implement something and create an actual market there is no need for IP because nobody will buy an idea and take all the risks for doing so and still have to pay for the privilege of having all the risks and having to forcible share all the profits with somebody who took no risks.

    Some people believe that to win the race they need to exclude all others runners from the race, but they will never win against others that had to face other runners in the real life.

    This also reminds me of a joke about a bear:

    Two guys were hiking through the jungle when they spotted a bear. One of the guys reached into his pack and pulled out a pair of sneakers. His friend looked at him.

    "Do you really think those shoes are going to make you run faster than that bear?"

    "I don't have to run faster than that bear. I just have to run faster than you."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 13 Jul 2011 @ 11:50pm


    The trouble with tech transfer offices is, a patent is an idea on a piece of paper. As has been discussed here before, it is the implementation, the vision, the drive and determination, come hell or high water to make things work, that make a patent worth something. Not the shitty little piece of paper with an idea on it.

    There are about 8 million patents now. Where are all the products from these pieces of paper? Only about 5% of patents actually have any impact. It is not because these are the most brilliant ideas, it is because someone had the drive to push them forward.

    In many cases the most brilliant ideas are left to rot because it will cost to much short term to re-tool, or compete in the same arena as an existing product.

    All in all the probability of having a successful transfer office is close to nil.

    So your question is a moot point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 12:20am


    To answer your question. Would the sucess of the tech transfer office at the U of Copenhagen hurt or help the position that patents hinder innovation?

    You asked that question in a very sneaky way, double negative and all, and here is my answer.

    It would hurt the position that patents produce innovation.

    First they innovation come before the patent.

    Second the U of C is becoming a Venture Capital firm with this move. They are looking for the implementation, and the business support structure to carry it through, not the IP. In our current society, the IP is the protection against the IP extortionist, also known as patent trolls, nothing more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    -, 14 Jul 2011 @ 1:44am

    I find the title misleading. They are not giving away patents but rights to implement them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Richard (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 3:52am

    The question to ask

    The question to ask to a senior person in your University is:

    Would you rather 2 or 3 people used the work and paid a few thousand in licencing fees - or would you rather 1000 people used it and broadcast your name across the world?

    All a University needs is attribution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    The eejit (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 5:08am


    There's a difference in that those rights are being completely given away, provided you have a way of bringing that patent to a marketable solution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2011 @ 5:37am


    A bear in the jungle?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Boost (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 6:01am

    Core Values of Instutes of Higher learning

    The core values of most Universities are profit, plain and simple. They like to blow hot air up people's asses by telling them that it's all about advancing knowledge, but that is horse shit. They are really Institutes of Higher Profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2011 @ 6:46am

    Within the United States the significant rise in the number of universities engaged in tech transfer correlates almost exactly with the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act.

    The truth be known, however, the vast majority of such university tech transfer programs are not profit centers if one defines profit as income minus expenses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2011 @ 6:52am


    No, what it really proves is that you can work within the patent laws and still have amazing simple transfer of technology. Just because there are patents doesn't mean that things get "locked up" for 20 years. It's an amusing story that proves that much of the venomous hatred for patents is just not very well founded.

    Perhaps you should ask Bono.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Richard (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re: Core Values of Instutes of Higher learning

    If that is true then the institutions in question will not survive long term.

    It is not true of those institutions (Such as Oxford and Cambridge in the UK) where the academic staff are still the sovereign body - even though their executives would like it to be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Greg G (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re:

    A tiger?... in Africa?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Lord Binky, 14 Jul 2011 @ 7:53am

    They didn't say which market....

    Hmm.... I bet I could get a product to the farmer's market or black market within a year. Oh there's even the flea market, oops sorry, already mentioned that.

    Anyways, I'm totally for doing the adult thing to do when people abuse the patent system so much. "If you can't play nicely, I'm taking it away." I'm all for just completely removeing patents and letting the economy flurish (Ex: Apple trying to remove competitors by injunction for patents-that-should-not-be-patents). But a flurishing economy is kinda chaotic and large companies detest that sort thing, so there's no way your getting past their pay wall(politicians). So, unlike many others who just spout off the equivalent of "BURN THIS MOTHA TO THE GROUND!", here are some realistic overhauls of the patent system.

    Replace all the stupid rights you get with patents and make it a nontransferable inventor's credit right. That way for some arbitrary number of years, lets say 10, the maker of the product must give credit to the inventors (or brand name selected and owned by patenter) of the patents used in the product. If there 5 or less, it must be placed clearly and prominently on the product packaging, otherwise all credits can be placed with the products documentation. The (new)patent holders may give permission to forgo the required printed credit, usually for a fee (see they can still make money!).

    So this way, technology can't be held up by assholes, companies have to find another way to sue or compete, there is still motivation for releaseing your patentable knowledge instead of making it a trade secret.

    Now really think about that, do you think a pharmacutical company wants to have "INVENTED BY (competitor)" on it? Another example would be a shiny SONY tv box with USING SAMSUNG TECHNOLOGY plastered up front on the box. So of course they would try to pay to not include that right on the box. Even if they don't, everyone will know the company that invented it, with gives the company name/brand credit. There's alot of market control that can be gained from it, without having to hold up anything.

    Hell, I'd be happy if there was simply a clause in patents that said you lose patent rights without a viable business plan and actually produce a product within 3 years, which the patent expires 2 years after product release. That way, if you don't know wtf you would use it for, you wouldn't go for a patent until you do know what to do, which allows for another person who comes up with the same damn thing and DOES know what to do with it, to do so.

    TL;DR, The patent system is made where it CAN work, but it CAN also be ruined by a bunch of assholes (companies). Play nice or lose it, it is hurting the economy more than helping.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 8:41am

    Patents and education

    Excellent article, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    The article does ignore the really serious negative consequences of this, though - since there is the appearance of great wealth from "here and now, practical" applications, it degrades the value of pure research.

    So, the wisdom of the past: "a dollar for now, a dollar for the future" becomes "get the money, NOW!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2011 @ 8:44am

    "University Of Copenhagen Giving Away Patents For Free... If You Have A Credible Plan"

    Allegedly, the USPTO was supposed to only grant patents on designs if there is a plan to implement them (ie: if you have a working model).

    Yet that turned out to be a complete failure. The majority of patents never even make it to product. It's no surprise that this is a failure too. It's a success for big government established monopolistic corporations, it's a failure for society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Tore Vange, 14 Jul 2011 @ 9:07am

    Re: Core Values of Instutes of Higher learning

    Actually, in Denmark, universities are public institutions, funded with taxpayers money, free to attend. Hell, you even get an automatic stipend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), 14 Jul 2011 @ 9:29am

    Pay the professors and then make the work available

    I'd like to think that if taxpayer funds are being used to support research, then that research would be freely available. Unfortunately that system is breaking down because more schools are needing to find other sources of revenue rather than taxpayer money. So it is probably understandable that universities were hoping to make some money this way.

    Maybe everyone here can brainstorm about alternative fundraising systems that support research and researchers while at the same time making the information widely available.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2011 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re:

    No, it means patents don't get locked up for 20 years when the company doesn't want them locked up.

    Why don't you ask Samsung and Apple how many smartphones they want the competition making?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    A Guy, 14 Jul 2011 @ 12:05pm

    The university I went to made a killing at a similar office. I think their biggest moneymaker was a method for compressing white space on printed pages. So, universities now get to be copyright trolls too!!! Because I guarantee that no one there manufactured/marketed a fax machine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    hrusha, 14 Jul 2011 @ 9:39pm

    Re: Re: Core Values of Instutes of Higher learning

    Yup! It's true (oh and Mike thanks for publishing my submission!)

    And while at it, those socialist jerks have also realized how to make do with a LOT of other social services that we can only dream of here....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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