SD25 - An Assessment of the Intellectual Property Policies and Practices in Virginia's Public Universities and Federal Laboratories

Executive Summary:
In February 1999, the Virginia legislature mandated a study to review the intellectual policies and procedures of the institutions of higher education and federal laboratories in the Commonwealth. A research team from Applied Research Analysts (a survey and research firm) and Jagtiani & Associates (an intellectual property law firm) conducted the independent study during June and July. To understand the policies, they spoke with 18 officials at eight universities and five officials associated with one federal laboratory, and reviewed their written policies. To gain insight into actual practices, they spoke with 12 officials from Virginia-based companies who had tried, successfully or not, to license intellectual property from the universities and laboratories. Finally, to identify policies and practices that could benefit the public universities, the team spoke with consultants and university officials at institutions nation-wide that are widely perceived as having best practices in place.

Nine key issues were identified through an analysis of the information gathered. The issues include:

1. The apparent conflict of interest between the role of the university and the commercialization of intellectual property.

2. The communication of technical expertise and intellectual property available.

3. Streamlining the sponsored research and licensing processes.

4. Ownership of intellectual property generated by Virginia’s public universities.

5. Enhancing the relationship of faculty and students with the university’s licensing entity.

6. Enhancing the relationship between the university and corporations.

7. Financial arrangements regarding commercialization of intellectual property.

8. The strong state versus strong university paradigms.

9. Strengths and weaknesses of the university intellectual property office paradigm and the dedicated non-profit paradigm.

The report presents the perceptions, experiences, and concerns expressed by the university and business interviewees. It also presents the research team’s analysis of their input and the written materials reviewed.

The study included a comparative analysis of Fiscal Year 1997 figures on the number of disclosures, licenses executed, licensing income received, and sponsored research expenditures for three of the Commonwealth’s research universities (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Virginia Commonwealth University) and 16 other institutions well regarded for their research faculty. The Virginia schools ranked quite well; if their performance could reach the median level on some measures, however, the gross licensing income realized would increase by nearly one million dollars. The research team also collected trend data from the three Virginia schools on the same four measures over the period of FY93 to FY99.

The research team concluded that on balance, the IP commercialization process is generally working well in the Commonwealth. There are, however, significant opportunities for improvement in the relationships among faculty, university technology transfer offices, and the business community that would benefit all parties as well as the general public. To make sure that these opportunities were widely perceived, the draft version of this report was reviewed by officials at the six public research universities in Virginia, and their comments are reflected in this final version.

The report is accompanied by three additional volumes of IP policies, guidelines, and related materials collected from Virginia’s public universities, other public and private institutions in the United States, and related documents from associations and non-profit organizations.