University Intellectual Property: a Source of Finance and Impact, edited by Graham Richards, is a recent publication from Harriman House. Available both in paperback and e-book format, it constitutes an attempt to focus much of the contemporary and generalised discussion about the protection, development and commercial exploitation of intellectual property on one specific source: innovation which emerges from the university. According to the publisher's web-blurb:
"The traditional role of the university has been to teach and conduct original research, but this situation is changing. As governments judge universities on new criteria - including the 'impact' they have - and as universities are driven to search for finance from new sources, those that run universities are increasingly looking to exploit the intellectual property created by their researchers to help deliver this impact and income. How this should be done, and whether it should be done at all, is subject to much debate.
The key issues are:
- What constitutes intellectual property?
- Do academics or universities own IP?
- Does the commercialisation of IP impact academic freedom?
- How can IP best be exploited and who should be financially rewarded when it is?
- What assistance can governments and other bodies provide?
This book investigates these issues. After a review of how the current situation came to be, the views and experiences of a range of experts are presented, including those of a former high court judge, a senior lawyer, a patent attorney and professionals involved in technology transfer. The contributors examine whether the roles of higher education institutions have changed, what academics and universities should be doing, and how technology transfer can be made more effective and efficient. To conclude, a provocative look at the ethics of the situation is presented".
There is no doubting Professor Richards' qualification to investigate the subject. His "previous" includes Oxford's Isis Innovation Ltd as well as his own spin-out company, Oxford Molecular, and he also wrote Spin-Outs: Creating Businesses from University Intellectual Property, brought out by the same publisher three and a half years ago (here). He is not merely the editor of this book but the contributor of five of its chapters (the others are written by Sir Robin Jacob, Ian Bingham, Patricia Barclay, Roya Ghafele, Alexander Weedon and Catherine Rhodes). He urges balance, particularly between commercial expectations and reality and between academic freedom and academic serfdom, and plainly takes the view that it is better to work out how to make the best of current legal, commercial and financial realities than to start by trying to change them.