Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer
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Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer

Edited by Jacob H. Rooksby

Written by leading experts from across the world, this Handbook expertly places intellectual property issues in technology transfer into their historical and political context whilst also exploring and framing the development of these intersecting domains for innovative universities in the present and the future.
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Chapter 12: US patent sales by universities and research institutes

Brian J Love, Erik Oliver and Michael Costa


This Chapter explores the extent to which universities and other nonprofit research institutes currently participate in the secondary market for patents. We document 220 assignments, involving a total of 544 US patent assets, that appear to represent arms-length patent sales by universities (or other nonprofit research institutes) during the period 2012–2017. We present data on the entities and assets involved in these transactions, as well as the publicly available circumstances underlying each sale. Among other findings, we observe that foreign universities are the most active market participants. Overall, US universities and labs account for less than one quarter of sales, and elite US research universities are almost entirely absent from the market. We also find that few academic US patent sales bear the hallmarks of technology transfer. Just eleven percent of assets appear to have been purchased with commercialization in mind. Virtually all other purchases appear to have been either defensive acquisitions by operating technology companies or purchases by nonpracticing entities. Finally, we consider what conclusions policymakers and university administrators may draw from our data.

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