On Monday, August 5, 2013, the the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), a nonprofit association of academic technology transfer professionals, released the highlights of the AUTM U.S. Licensing Activity Survey: FY2012. The AUTM survey shares quantitative information about licensing activities at U.S. universities, hospitals and research institutions.The full report is scheduled for release at the end of the year.
The highlights of the survey reveal that University licensing and startup activity continued to see a robust increase during fiscal year 2012.
Institutions responding to the survey reported $36.8 billion in net product sales from licensed technologies in fiscal year 2012. In addition, startup companies formed by 70 institutions employed 15,741 full-time employees. This was the second year in which AUTM asked questions specifically targeted at ascertaining the economic impact of academic technology transfer.
President Lincoln was an independent inventor and patent owner.
Historically, innovation by individual inventors has driven our economy by creating new jobs and companies. Consider the names of some individual inventors who ultimately formed companies to exploit their ideas, but who initially manufactured nothing: Westinghouse (air brake), Ford (car), Gillette (razor), Hewlett-Packard (oscillation generator), Otis (elevator), Harley (motorcycle shock absorber), Colt (revolving gun), Goodrich (tires), Goodyear (synthetic rubber), Carrier (air treatment), Noyce (Intel), Carlson (Xerox), Eastman (laser printer camera), Land (Polaroid), Shockley (semiconductor), Kellogg (grain harvester), DuPont (gun powder), Nobel (explosives), the Wright brothers (aircraft), Owens (glass), Steinway (pianos), Bessemer (steel), Jacuzzi (hot tub), Smith & Wesson (firearm), Burroughs (calculator), Houdry (catalytic cracker), Marconi (wireless communication), Goodard (rocket), Diesel (internal combustion engine), Fermi (neutronic reactor), Disney (animation), Sperry (Gyroscope), Williams (helicopter), even Abraham Lincoln who was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469. These are individuals who, in most cases, worked alone, without government or corporate support, yet, created not just new inventions, but whole new industries that employ millions of people today.
It can be argued, of course, that most of these inventors ultimately created manufacturing companies and that companies who merely buy patents from individual inventors contribute nothing. That seems to be much of what you are hearing. But what about small companies that are struggling to compete against corporate giants and need a strong patent system to level the playing field? As the inventor of the MRI scanning machine, Dr. Raymond Damadian, observed, it’s the small companies (not giants that ship their jobs to India and China) who provide the economic spark for new jobs in America.
Earlier today Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released the rankings for the 2013 Global Innovation Index. Switzerland and Sweden remain #1 and #2 respectively, but the United States jumped 5 places to #5.
According to the report, the United States benefited from a strong education base, with many top-ranked universities. Additionally, over the last year the U.S. has seen significant increases in software spending and employment in knowledge-intensive industries. The U.S. was last in the top 5 of the Global Innovation Index in 2009, when it placed #1.
There was also good news for innovation in general, which is alive and well despite the global economic crisis, which drags on. The report explains that “[r]esearch and development spending levels are surpassing 2008 levels in most countries and successful local hubs are thriving.”
Senator Birch Bayh (right) with then Staffer Joe Allen (left) in a Bayh-Dole Act hearing in 1980.
As I sat there this morning having breakfast and drinking my coffee I was reading Innovation, which has as its tag line America’s Journal of Technology Commercialization.
Really? I find it impossible to believe that a magazine that purports to be a journal of technology commercialization would publish the complete and utter nonsense that I read this morning.
Newsflash… Bayh-Dole is objectively positive and has been extraordinarily successful in its mission. The FACTS are overwhelming. Anyone who suggests Bayh-Dole is anything other than successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams is simply not being honest and is ignoring factual evidence. Indeed, detractors frequently make arguments that fly directly in the face of facts. Many believe they simply lie or make up what they are saying to forward their own agenda.
Design patent applications have experienced continuous growth for the past decade. Patent offices worldwide reported 344,700 new applications in 2004 and 775,700 in 2011. In the most recent years, the growth of design applications has accelerated, with a rate of 13.9% growth in 2010 and 16% in 2011. Of the top 20 origin countries, which are defined as the countries of residence of design patent applicants, nearly all saw growth in 2011. This trend reflects the overall growth of patents and trademarks, which reported a record year across the board. Despite economic uncertainty in recent years, IP growth has persisted.
My own view of government precludes me from sharing the ultimate goal of a government should initiate a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). I tend toward the Jeffersonian view of government — that government which governs least governs best. I am also a big believer in the power of incentives. In all walks of life what is obtained is what is incentivized. If employees know how they will be evaluated, for example, even a mediocre employee can achieve high marks by performing tot the evaluation. Tax policy is another excellent example, as is the patent system.
For better or for worse, the United States has not incentivized manufacturing. In fact, the incentives associated with manufacturing are to off-shore manufacturing rather than do it in the United States. There are too many bureaucratic hurdles to opening a business in the U.S., particularly a manufacturing facility. Anyone who doubts this needs to read Great Again: Revitalizing America’s Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Our interview took place on Friday, December 14, 2012. During our interview we talked about the nearly constant challenges to gut Bayh-Dole, which is the very foundation of university technology licensing and the piece of legislation called the most successful domestic legislation in the post World War II era by none other than The Economist. We also discussed what it is that universities do and how, despite what the critics say, the basic research done by universities is hardly ready for the marketplace. To read the interview from the beginning please see Part 1.
Without further ado, here is Part II (the finale) of my interview with Todd Sherer.
Todd Sherer, PhD, is Director of Technology Transfer at Emory University. Sherer and his staff in the Office of Technology Transfer manage more than 800 active technologies developed through basic research. But he is not just the Director of Technology Transfer. Sherer is also the current President of the Association of University Technology Managers(AUTM), which has as its core purpose the supporting and advancing of academic technology transfer both within the United States and around the globe.
On December 10, 2012, AUTM published the results of the AUTM U.S. Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011, and the AUTM Canadian Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011. Among the findings of the survey were that the 58 institutions (i.e., 31 percent of the 186 respondents) reported that 2,821 of their licenses paid $662 million in running royalties based on $37 billion in product sales, implying an average royalty rate of 1.8 percent. The survey also contained very positive news about startups founded around university technologies. Some 66 institutions (i.e., 35 percent of the 186 respondents) reported employment of 24,653 by 1,731 operational startups, an average of 14 employees per startup.
Upon receiving the press release I set up an interview with Sherer, which was conducted on December 14, 2012, via recorded telephone call. What follows is Part I of our two-part interview.
A wide variety of credible sources confirm the existence of an inexorable link between the profound historical uniqueness of the American Patent System, the rate and quality of American innovation, the rate and quality of American business and job creation, and the profound historical uniqueness and evolution of the American economy.
Accordingly, changing the US Patent System has measurable and profound effects on the American economy just as surely as changing the Tax Code, the Antitrust Laws, or Trade Policy is routinely relied-upon public policy tools for regulating the American economy.
The verdict is not yet in on the constitutionality of the major changes mandated by the 2011 America Invents Act (AIA) as is reflected in the Constitutional challenge discussed in here and here. More importantly, however, is the fact that the smallest and most innovative entities which create most of the new jobs in America already know that the AIA will undermine the US Patent System, and adversely impact their innovation and their job creation in America. It is imperative that we all understand the impact of the implementation of the AIA in 2013 and particularly the ability of large deep-pocketed Multinational Mega-Techs to game the system in the areas of post-grant review, business-method patents, and enforcement. This should be a year where we take control of the AIA implementation and fix the problematic aspects of the law.
Pulling the plug and letting out the baby with the bath water is ridiculous, on that everyone can agree. What people can’t agree on, surprisingly, is selecting a path for the future from the playbook of winning plays. Time and time again any more “do-gooders” seem to want to call plays from the playbook of plays that have never succeeded. In what universe does that make any sense whatsoever? When will they realize that plays that have not worked have failed for a reason? Success is not overdue. Get a grip!
With a firm grasp of some alternate reality, critics of the patent system, and specifically the critics of software patents, would have the United States forfeit the future in favor of something that has never worked. Curtailing patent rights has never worked to produce more innovation anywhere it has been tried. The inconvenient truth is that there is no evidence that a weaker patent system fosters innovation, but there is overwhelming evidence that a strong patent system does foster innovation, leads to growth, investment from abroad and a growing more prosperous economy. Indeed, weak patent rights virtually guarantee innovation simply won’t happen.
So what is fueling the anti-software patent hatred and ridiculous claims that software patents are somehow evil? It is a particular world-view or ideology that approaches religious zealotry. It certainly isn’t anything that resembles factual truth or reality.