EASY ACCESS IP PROJECT
Three British universities recently proposed an interesting initiative called the Easy Access IP Project. The goal is to grant royalty-free licenses to anyone willing to commercialize technology within the university’s portfolio that has not yet been commercialized. Most licenses are non-exclusive, but exclusive licenses may also be available. The universities maintain websites where they post information about upcoming opportunities and summaries of available IP.
The idea is intriguing—provide companies with an opportunity to browse an otherwise unused portfolio and notify them when upcoming technologies become available for licensing. It certainly seems to promote commercialization of innovation, because if the university is unable, for whatever reason, to commercialize a patent, a third party could evaluate the patent and try to commercialize it royalty-free. The universities would be at an advantage since the terms of the license agreement reserve the rights to practice the technology for academic and research purposes. This could be the proverbial win-win situation for both the universities and business entities willing to exploit otherwise unexploited IP assets.
The counterargument, of course, is that the universities may be at a disadvantage, since companies may refrain from negotiating and obtaining royalty-bearing licenses, in hopes that they may license the same IP under a royalty-free license via the Easy Access IP Project. As another potential pitfall, it’s worth considering that an established company may obtain a non-exclusive license and rely on existing distribution or manufacturing capabilities to simply outcompete other non-exclusive licensees of the same technology. This may put small companies and start-ups at a disadvantage, and may come as a windfall to existing businesses, rather than serving to incubate startups and entrepreneurs around the respective university.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception the Easy Access IP Project receives among the academic and business communities. Since the sample licenses for the project require annual reporting of the use of the technology and the economic benefits derived from it, some project metrics released by the universities would hopefully be forthcoming to see the program’s impact.
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Your thoughts and comments are welcome.
Want to read more about the Easy Access IP Project? Check out the three links below.