Monday, December 29, 2008

Intellectual property at Colorado State University

A story on Colorado State University mentions Bryan Willson of Solix (algae) fame:

Yalin would know. The United States Patent & Trademark Office in March granted Yalin and a slew of collaborators, including EECL co-director Bryan Willson, a patent on technology replacing traditional sparkplugs with lasers in large, high-pressure natural gas engines.

The article also mentions the Bayh-Dole Act:

In 1980, Congress passed a law, the Bayh-Dole Act, that effectively required universities to be more aggressive at shepherding their inventions into the marketplace.

The basic theory behind that law is that capitalism is the best way to separate useful discoveries from those that are simply interesting.

"There's an inherent value in basic research, in advancing knowledge. That's what most scientists come into the work thinking about. But that having been said, we work in a land-grant institution that is all about education and research and outreach," said Bill Farland, CSU's senior vice president for research and engagement.

One may question whether the Bayh-Dole Act "required" the universities to be more aggressive. It was permissive.

Of nuts and bolts of IP at CSU, the article noted:

Over the years, CSU has fostered a culture where researchers are encouraged to work on real-world solutions to problems, according to multiple researchers and administrators. They see it as a natural outgrowth of the land-grant mission.

CSURF contracts with CSU to help manage the invention process. CSURF and its subordinate CSU Ventures, works with researchers to identify promising developments, checks to see if anyone else has patented similar technology, then works through the patenting process, which can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Once a patent is granted, CSURF and CSU Ventures work to find a private business or other entity interested in licensing the technology for practical application.

"We assist in the process of extracting knowledge from the university," said Mark Wdowik, who heads up technology transfer and commercialization activities on behalf of CSU. "Part of the problem of turning the innovation into a product is that it's a long process. The faster we can push it out, the faster market forces can come to bear."

Money that comes in from licensing inventions is split four ways: 40 percent to CSURF for legal and other support, 35 percent to the inventor, 15 percent to Farland's office, and 10 percent to the college or department where the research came from.

**And, something new-->

But starting next year, there'll be a new twist. Wdowik is starting a venture-capital fund to invest in CSU-affiliated research.

The fund's investors will be kept private, as will their investments. Individuals will be able to buy in for $50,000, and companies for $100,000, Wdowik said.

"If we can put some money in ... then we push that (research) out into the marketplace faster," he added. "It's an avant-garde approach."


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