University Technology Transfer: Don’t Underestimate Intangible Assets As Valuable By-Products of Inventions

Michael D. Moberly     December 9, 2011

Most, if not all, university research (whether basic or applied) and subsequent inventions produce potentially valuable intangible assets that compliment and/or serve as supporting foundations to the invention’s intellectual property.  IP, after all, is what most technology transfer managers, faculty researchers, inventors, research administrators, and legal counsel initially focus, often times to the chagrin of intangible asset strategists.

In far too many instances, I believe, intangible assets are overlooked, dismissed, or certainly overshadowed by the time honored practice of university technology transfer processes of pursuing conventional intellectual property dominated strategies, i.e., patent applications, provisionals, licensing, etc.

Today’s road to successful technology transfer however, is increasingly lengthy, costly, and risky.  The prospects of developing the next royalty generating Gatorade are realistically few and far between.  But, that doesn’t and shouldn’t keep us from trying.

It’s an economic fact though, that 65+% of most invention’s value and foundations for (future) growth and revenue, especially faculty researcher generated (university-based) inventions, evolve directly from intangible assets.  This economic fact now makes it all the more prudent to factor into technology transfer processes, intangible assets! 

Why?, because in most instances, intangible assets underlie, are embedded in, and are valuable by-products of scientific innovations.  To consider intangible assets as after-thoughts or subordinate to intellectual properties relative to technology transfer invention assessments results in leaving potentially lucrative (licensing) opportunities and value on the strategic planning and negotiating table!

Similarly, narrowly conceiving university research, inventions, and technology transfer processes through conventional IP (patent – licensing only) lens diminishes any inclination to genuinely explore options, i.e., extracting and exploiting potential value from intangibles embedded in most every invention.

When intangible assets are overlooked or not properly factored into the technology transfer processes, their supportive and contributory value and even possibly defensive role for enhancing and sustaining the invention and underlying intellectual property will likely be irrevocably lost.  Increasingly, this bodes well for competitors (globally) who have the where with all to identify, and exploit (monetize) those assets for their benefit and profit but at the rightful owners’ expense.

There are multiple other benefits that can accrue to university technology transfer teams and faculty inventors’ when they identify and leverage the intangible assets associated with an invention versus lumping them in the catch all ‘goodwill’ bucket.  In other words, intangibles can and should be integrated into an inventor’s technology transfer strategic plan.

In the current knowledge-based global economy, 65+% of an institution’s value, sources of revenue, sustainability, and foundations for future growth lie in intangible assets.  Still, with that economic fact staring every university inventor and technology transfer manager in the face, identifying and exploiting their intangible asset by-products unfortunately still remains a hard sell!

While visiting  my blog, you are encouraged to browse other topics/subjects (left column, below photograph) .  Should you find particular topics of interest or relevant to your circumstance,  I would welcome your inquiry at  314-440-3593 or [email protected]


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