How patents impede research
Date: Saturday, November 05, 2005 @ 16:02:25 GMT
Topic: Legal

From Open Access News: Stephen Hansen, Amanda Brewster, and Jana Asher, Intellectual Property in the AAAS Scientific Community: A descriptive analysis of the results of a pilot survey on the effects of patenting on science, AAAS, October 2005. From the executive summary:

Historically, academic scientists chose to disseminate basic research findings and inventions through free and open channels such as informal sharing, journal publications or conference presentations. These basic discoveries had little immediate commercial value for the author to appropriate privately, but could prove highly useful for other researchers to build upon.

The reward structure of academic science reinforced this practice, awarding prestige and tenure on the basis of discoveries published in journals and provided openly to the scientific community. The patenting of intellectual property generated by research, while pursued by academics in some fields, was primarily reserved for discoveries made in the commercial sector, which could be developed into marketable products and bring monetary rewards to their inventors. The past two decades have seen an increase in patenting, most notably in the life sciences, by both industry and academic scientists in the U.S. Much concern has been raised that this increase in patenting would create an “anti-commons” effect where basic, non-commercial academic research would be hindered by the imposition of long negotiations and expensive licenses to acquire necessary research inputs from either industry or academia....

Overall, 24% of respondents conducting or managing research or specializing in intellectual property reported acquiring a patented technology for use in their esearch since January 2001....For industry bioscience, non-exclusive licensing was the most common method used in the acquisition of technologies. In both industry and academia, exclusive licensing was one of the least used methods for technology transfer....A total of 16% of all respondents reported that their work had been affected by difficulties in attempting to obtain patented technologies. A total of 40% of respondents who had acquired patented technologies since 2001 reported difficulties in obtaining that technology....Of the 40% of respondents who reported their work had been affected, 58% said their work was delayed, 50% reported they had to change the research, and 28% reported abandoning their research project. The most common reason respondents reported having to change or abandon their research project was that the acquisition of the necessary technologies involved overly complex licensing negotiations....Overall, 25% of the respondents who disseminated their technology included a research exemption that allowed the patent holder to continue to conduct research on or with the licensed technology. 32% of respondents who licensed the technology included a research exemption....For those who had not disseminated their technologies, the most frequently reported reason was that they were developing or commercializing it themselves (65%). The top reason among academic respondents why they did not disseminate their technologies was that they planned to conduct future research with it (40%)....[D]ifficulties reported by industry respondents in attempting to access patented technologies outnumbered those of academic respondents by a ratio of more than 2:1. This may be due to the fact that industry reported creating and holding more intellectual property than academia, as well as the fact that industry relies more on licensing, which entails more and longer negotiations than other more traditional and informal forms of technology transfer still used within academia.

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