The academic community has been a consistent source of innovation in the American economy, and universities have often been handsomely rewarded through well-designed patent licensing agreements. As companies look to navigate the new landscape brought on by the shift to a first to file system, it may be wise to follow the lessons observed in the higher-education sector.
"Regardless of the size, age or mission of the university, the technology transfer office must stand with one foot planted in the open science of academic tradition, and one foot planted in the commercial world outside," Innovation Excellence blogger Melba Kurma wrote following her experience at a recent University of Utah technology transfer seminar.
The same can be said of corporate research and development teams. They must be aware of market development to understand where they stand and locate potentially underserved areas of opportunity.
Kurma also highlighted the merits of consistent revenue streams as opposed to intellectual property strategies geared toward securing "home run" deals. Although lucrative biotechnology patent licensing deals, for example, have grabbed headlines, having a full pipeline of smaller inventions is viewed by many university tech transfer directors as the preferred, sustainable approach.
Schools have also become acutely aware of how the shift to first to file may affect their handling of invention disclosures. As Fast Company contributor John Villasenor recently noted, the terms that define these processes have been expanded to include everything from conference demonstrations to company blogs and even social media posts. With that in mind, patent teams must keep all members of the organization on the same page to ensure new technologies are not accidentally debuted without their consent.