Problems of Commercialising and Patenting University Research

Patenting by universities has its critics (see here) and can cause controversy (see here).  Here are our top 8 points as to why chasing patents could be harmful to universities.

  1. Universities can end up behaving like patent trolls, enforcing patent rights with no intention of working the invention.  Some universities have been aggressive in enforcing their patent rights.
  2. Given that universities do not work the invention, they have no interest in cross-licensing and so can be more difficult to negotiate with.
  3. Academics feel pressurised to commercialise their work.  It adds to their stress and this could cause long term damage to the culture of innovative research in universities.
  4. It could lead to a change in the areas which are researched, commercialisable research being favoured, so that certain important areas may get neglected as a result.
  5. The production of patents will be favoured over journal publications, which would be a loss to our collective knowledge.
  6. Ownership issues over patents could hinder cooperation and sharing of information between scientists.
  7. There is an argument that publically funded research should be available to all, and perhaps university research should be used to promote open innovation.
  8. There is a question as to whether commercialisation of research changes the role of universities in the research ecosystem. Their role changes from one of having social responsibility to one of generating profits.

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