Thursday, April 14, 2005

Discussion of university patent policy in UCLA Bruin

The initial text discusses work by UCLA Professors Ben Wu and Eric Ting directed to a new bone regeneration technique. The article states that through UCLA's Office of Intellectual Property Administration, university faculty members are able to aggressively pursue patents for their research and potentially bring them to the market, where the creators hope they can make a difference in everyday lives.

***The article continues -->

The general idea of natural bone reconstruction has been seen before: In the 1960s, UCLA alumni Marshall Urist developed a similar method, which uses a protein growth factor to spur the healing of natural bone tissue. Ting said because "he didn't really patent it," Urist's method was adopted by businesses and became very expensive, subsequently reaching a limited scope of patients. The UC did not receive any royalties for the discovery.

Wu and Ting hope to make their new method less expensive by being a part of the company that licenses it. "We felt an obligation that an invention like this should be available to the general public," Ting said.

Both professors agree that the Office of Intellectual Property Administration has helped them come closer to realizing their dream.

The office manages the majority of patents at UCLA. Staffed by legal, business and science experts, it educates researchers in the patent process and supports them in transferring their new technology to the industry.

The office collects $14 million annually in gross royalties for the UC and doles out individual royalties to researchers. As per the UC patent policy, the inventor receives 35 percent of the royalty, while the department or laboratory receives 15 percent. The remaining portion goes to a general fund under the UC's control.

Not only does the office pay for a patent – which can be $25,000 for a U.S. patent alone – but it supplies a legal team to formulate its wording, which is important to prevent future patent infringement.

UCLA researchers sign the UC patent policy, in which they recognize that because their research is done through public laboratories, their patents are the property of the UC. The office at UCLA then can either license the patent to businesses to generate royalties, or it can grant the rights of the license to start-up companies like Bone Biologics Inc., which are expected to competitively use the license.

The office must review which patents will be supported on a case-by-case basis because they are so expensive. With advice from the faculty, it determines which patents are economically viable.

Ting expressed disappointment that the office must make choices in what patents it can fully back, noting that it is difficult to predict what patents will become economically viable. "A couple years later, they may really regret that they dropped (a) patent," Ting said.

"There is a rational source of dollars, not an unlimited source of dollars," said Kathryn Atchison, the vice provost of the office.


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