Technology transfer and patents in academia

By Pankaj Musyuni, LexOrbis

Technology transfer in academic property refers to the exchange of knowledge either internal – between students and teachers, or between teachers in the form of publications, presentations in seminars and conferences – or as an expert opinion given to industrial associates. In general, such initiatives help to originate and develop the initial phases of intellectual property (IP) and provide a platform for researchers developing products for the public. The cooperation between researchers and industry can advance knowledge to develop a technology, while IP in the form of patents ensure that rights are protected in the interests of both parties.

Pankaj Musyuni  LexOrbis
Pankaj Musyuni

Researchers usually believe that publication of their research should reach the public transparently. However, eventually, these technologies need to be developed, which can effectively be achieved through industrial collaborations. The motive of academia is to innovate, share knowledge and to educate researchers for industry and generally focus on open communication with the public. On the other hand, industry looks to satisfy the demands of the public, to generate revenue and to create jobs. Further, the benefits of such collaborations include not only the management of innovation and investment but also makes the most efficient use of resources.

Consider the example of a drug, a compound identified by academic research needs identification at various stages including market research, pre-clinical and clinical trials, which require industry association. Such collaboration depends on the willingness of academia and industry to come closer to use the innovation in a useful way.

Patenting an invention is an important tool for protecting the rights for the inventors. While taking into consideration effective technology transfer and patenting the invention, interaction between academia and industry provides experience in dealing with the market and maintaining the larger interests of the public. Successful technologies require a deep understanding of technical know-how and rely on personnel from different fields working together to create multi-disciplinary innovations. The trust in academia for quality output and support from industry in funding research and development has made technology transfer a reality and it is expected to grow.

It is important for researchers to understand the provisions of section 47 of the Indian Patents Act (act), which provides an exemption in research activities. More particularly, section 47(3) of the act, which provides for experimentation and research exemptions to patent infringement. Section 47(3) of the act reads as follows: “any machine, apparatus or other articles in respect of which the patent is granted or any article made by the use of the process in respect of which the patent is granted, may be made or used, and any process in respect of which the patent is granted may be used, by any person, for the purpose merely of experiment or research including the imparting of instructions to pupils”.

Academic institutes in developing countries have a larger role to foster innovation and also to provide learning in various sectors that drive economic growth and employment. Academicians also have an important contribution in providing valuable education through technology transfer by assessing the feasibility of innovations in the labs.

The initial interaction regarding patents among institutions is usually characterized by mutual discussion. In practice, academicians have the intention to serve the public instead of enjoying the commercial aspects while the industry is looking to nurture the project for commercial viability.

It has been quite remarkable that Indian academic institutions only now understand the importance of protecting their knowledge through patents. The same is evident from the annual report 2016-17 as published by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications, which revealed that a total of 817 applications were filed by the top 10 Indian applicants for patents from institutes and universities. Additionally, 499 inventions have been contributed by the top 10 Indian applicants for patents from scientific, and research and development organizations.

Technology transfer helps in promoting academic institutes and the corresponding licensees, both in their capabilities and visibility. While the researchers and their organizations get recognition and motivation for research and innovation, the industry obtains the benefit of customized technology. The public also benefits from such collaboration in the form of jobs.

Pankaj Musyuni is a managing associate at LexOrbis



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