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OBR Reviews: Graham Richards? ?University Intellectual Property: A Source of Finance and Impact?

Cover of  by Graham Richards

There are many issues that an academic in today?s economic climate faces. With the impact of one?s research findings under intense scrutiny and the difficulties securing sufficient financial support for research from funding bodies and charities, there has been increased interest from universities to exploit the intellectual property (IP) generated in their laboratories. This book aims to explain how academic IP should be exploited from the perspective of the editor and numerous experts in the field of law and technology transfer.

About the editor

Professor Graham Richards is the former Head of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. He has a wealth of experience in the exploitation of IP, as he has worked extensively with university spin-out companies since 1988 and founded his own company, Oxford Molecular Ltd, in 1989. He was also involved in establishing the University of Oxford?s technology transfer office, Isis Innovation Ltd. He is now a senior non-executive director of IP Group Plc and actively shares his experiences in technology transfer to improve the progression of inventions from the laboratory to the market.

About the book

Richards provides an informative introduction to the book which successfully educates the reader of the various forms of IP that exist, including patents, copyrights and trademarks. This builds to explain the history behind university IP and how the ownership of IP moved from the government to universities. This introduction sets the current scene for the reader, ensuring even a novice in this topic would have a firm understanding of the issues surrounding the exploitation of university IP. He also provides lay explanations of the legal aspects of the patenting process which you won?t need a law degree to understand!

Each chapter is written by individuals from a multitude of backgrounds thus giving the reader an insight into how exploitation of IP affects each party involved. For example, a patent judge, The Right Honourable Professor Robin Jacob advises the reader on the problems faced by academia and industry partners alike when collaboration leads to IP which has the potential to be exploited. Ian Bingham provides an excellent overview of the role of a Patent Attorney, highlighting areas that academics may not necessarily understand such as, how a strong patent is created and how commercial value is associated with IP.

I particularly liked Roya Ghafele?s (director of Oxfirst Ltd) interpretation of the ways in which academic research could be commercialised, in the aptly named chapter, ?Waking a sleeping giant?. She clearly illustrates the differences in the sources of funding between universities in the UK, US and Sweden, using case studies to demonstrate the degree of IP being exploited across these institutions. She also emphasises the ethos of knowledge transfer as a social interaction, which I feel academics would be able to relate to better than the concept of commercialising their research as it complements their views on communicating their research to their peers.

As well as being an informative read, each chapter is lightly scattered with case studies of situations that have arisen in the past which make the book equally as interesting. The book in general is written in a very concise style (less than 200 pages) and targets the issues in a direct manner but with a sufficient degree of each author?s opinion. Although few in number, there some negatives to this book. Namely each chapter is the format of an essay in which some of the introductions are repetitive as they cover some of the background information already explained in the main introduction. Also, compared to other texts in this field this book is not a comprehensive guide of how to exploit university IP but is a suitable handbook to inform the reader of the history of university IP and how the process of exploiting this IP works.

Why you should read this book

This book is an excellent starting point for any academic researcher wanting to explore the world of technology transfer. It informs the reader of how the university can assist them to commercialise their research as well as preparing them for any pitfalls along the way. I would recommend this book to academics who want a gentle introduction into this field before contacting their respective technology transfer offices. Equally, despite the focus of this review on the benefit to the academic this book would also be of interest to those who work with academics to assist them with the exploitation of their IP as it provides an understanding of the issues they face.

The sentiments of the book are clear throughout and the editor has selected well-written and suitable chapters to convey this message. The message being, there is a need for a shift in the way university IP is exploited to ensure maximum impact from discoveries made in the laboratory and that this could be utilised to fund research. This can only be changed by educating current senior academics and the younger generation of scientists on how this can be achieved and highlighting just how important it is.

Why you shouldn?t read this book

If you are looking for a ?quick-fix? guide to commercialising your academic IP, this book is not for you. Although great for advice before setting out to start technology transfer this book won?t provide you will all the information you need.

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