Michael D. Moberly
University researchers, scientists, and inventors, not infrequently, describe their (working) relationships with university’s Technology Transfer Office’s (TTO’s), or the various campus specific equivalents, as being enlightening, strategic, supportive, sometimes complicated, and occasionally contentious. These are my observations having been in academia for 20+ years and having been the principle contributor to a book about ‘TTO on-boarding’.
Building and sustaining a mutual understanding and respect for each parties’ contributory role to the often protracted technology – science development, validity, practical application, potential commercialization and transfer) are obviously necessary paths to worthy and meaningful outcomes. Absent having a technology transfer process rooted in artful respect and understanding, as numerous universities have experienced, is a precursor to confusion and contention for distinguishing, understanding, and negotiating ‘what’s mine, what’s ours, and what’s theirs’. When these components are consistently present, the probability for a professionally satisfying outcome elevates. The outcome, of course, may, or may not, include lucrative or profession advancing commercialization of one’s research or invention.
But, irrespective of the preferred outcomes of technology – science transfer, an achievable, and perhaps obligatory requisite (hallmark of self-confident and self-effacing TTO’s) are interactions with university faculty should include respectful experiences that encourage repeated future contact.
Referencing my own comraderic experiences and observations in academia with TTO’s, initially as a faculty member and researcher, and currently as a consultant and author, I find, most university-based inventors and researchers rightfully earn – deserve pride and enthusiasm for the research they conduct. This is especially evident when their sustained focus and effort materializes as consecutive years of rigorous research, validity testing, and practical corroboration. One outcome of which may evolve as a form of intellectual property, usually, a patent and/or license, and possible commercialization, or its myriad alternatives.
Competing in a global research environment…
A fundamental concept which university-based researchers, (serial) inventors, and technology transfer managers alike, are obliged to recognize is, today’s university-based research and development (R&D) environment is globally competitive, aggressive, predatorial, and frequently ‘first to the market-space wins’, irrespective of intellectual property claims. Necessarily then, conducting university-based research and engaging in technology transfer, are obliged to be recognized as warranting strategic competencies and outlooks insofar as competing in increasingly intertwined global market-spaces.
Conventional distinctions and boundaries between university-based, for-profit, and public, not-for-profit research have become blurred, particularly in the context of domestic and international alliances. Collectively, these now normal nuances, for some, are variously challenging to put-to-practice for each field of research.
It is true, unfamiliarity with, or disregard for these global R&D realities, can contribute to significant challenges insofar as petitioning (research products and/or inventions) for, and successfully being registered as intellectual property. When, for example, a faculty researcher-inventor designs a compound, product, or device which can be readily circumvented, designed around, or may have already been (unbeknownst) compromised-infringed-counterfeited, significant challenges and disputes are sure to arise rapidly, and on many levels, often irreversibly.
These circumstances can become particularly disconcerting to credulous faculty (researchers-inventors) when they recognize – are informed the patent application-registration process will be difficult at best, perhaps ill-advised, financially unfeasible to enforce, and un-attractive to prospective investors, licensees, and commercialization.
University technology transfer office should be the starting point…
University technology transfer offices – management teams should (ideally) be considered the starting point for faculty researchers-inventors to…
• disclose – articulate their invention.
• acquire the necessary counsel and guidance.
• commence technology transfer, should it collectively be deemed a viable – preferred course of action.
Of course, university technology transfer teams have myriad professional obligations, one of which is to provide current, accurate, and experienced counsel and guidance. A particularly disconcerting aspect to any R&D – technology transfer initial engagement for a faculty researcher-inventor, is recognizing the reality that not all discoveries (research, inventions, etc.) gravitate – are destined to become registered intellectual property and viable properties for technology transfer and/or lucrative commercialization.
From experience, it’s probably healthy for one to assume patentability prospects of one’s research product and/or invention should, at least initially, be suspect, and subject to rigorous professional vetting, outcomes of which are attributable to numerous factors and variables, some beyond one’s immediate control. Experience is clear that pre-mature revelation plays a dominant and often irreversible role.
…the person who elects not to read has little or no advantage over the person who cannot read! (Variously attributed to Samuel Clemens, adapted by Michael D. Moberly.)
September 22, 2017 email@example.com St. Louis ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters’!