Introduction to Intellectual Property in Academia 1.3

1.3 Patents affecting university research

Let us delineate the benefits of patenting in the academic environment. First, the patent provides the recognition of the scientist as an inventor (which an article can do as well); Second, the patent can be counted as another publication; Third, since the patent is valuable to the university it helps to improve the scientist’s position there; The last, but far from the least, potential monetary reward can be lucrative both for the scientist and for the university.

On the flip side of it, quite a few scientists have been pointing out the deleterious effect the patenting can cause in the scientific community, because patenting by necessity restricts free flow of information that is vital to the scientific progress. Hampering of information flow brings patenting in conflict with the established open science norms. For instance, delay in the publication of results, forced by patenting, may affect areas where advances are cumulative. Fortunately, this thesis is mostly related to countries, where the patent law names “inventor” a person who first filed the patent application, in contrast with US patent law where the inventor is the first who made the invention. US patent law does not preclude publishing the results and later their patenting. In most of the countries, including Europe, the invention needs to be patented first, and then published.  In the latter case, the invention needs to be kept secret during a relatively long period until the patent is published.