Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iowa State invention on lead-free solder a big money maker

The Des Moines Register notes: Since the Iowa State University Research Foundation first patented Iver Anderson's lead-free solder in 1996, and repatented it in 2001, the licensing rights from sales have brought in more than $10 million to the foundation, said Kenneth Kirkland, executive director of the foundation.

The Register also noted two other big money makers for ISU:

One involved the fax machine. In 1973, David Nicholas, an electrical engineering graduate student at ISU, invented a way to compress data that made the fax machine what it is today. That patent brought in $36 million in royalty income before the agreements expired in 1997. [IPBiz notes: the fax machine, per se, was invented prior to 1900. For example, look here.

The No. 2 moneymaker involves the inventions of ISU chemistry professor Edward Yeung. His work resulted in the creation of a company called CombiSep. The business makes machines that use high-voltage and ultraviolet light to quickly identify the chemical composition and properties of samples created by drug and biotechnology companies.

Kirkland won't say how much income Yeung's inventions have generated for ISU since the first patent was issued in 1998, other than to acknowledge it's somewhere between $10 million and $36 million. The reason he won't say, Kirkland explained, is because the dollar total is the equivalent of a trade secret. The pharmaceutical research industry that buys CombiSep machines has only a handful of players who are highly competitive. Those businesses could do some quick math and figure who is doing what, if CombiSep sales became public, he said.


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