A Boon or a Pain?
John M. Owens
technology transfertwo subjects that can produce a broad range
of responses on any campusare seen by governing boards and
upper administration as vast, untapped sources of income for the
institution. But for mid-level administrators, the commercialization
of research is viewed as a mixed blessing. Sure, there are potential
financial returns along with a lot of bureaucratic headaches. Faculty
views run the gamut. Some see marketing research as a great source
of income, while for others it's a painful, administrative
has this situation come about? Before 1989, the federal government
owned and was responsible for all intellectual property (IP) produced
under its sponsorship. However, it wasn't making broad use
of the inventions in ways that would benefit the general public.
The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 gave universities the option of retaining
rights to products created under federal sponsorship, with universities
developing policies to share the derived revenues with the inventors.
new income source appeared in which inventors had a share. Most
institutions have tried to apply this policy to all of their inventions
regardless of whether the research is federally or privately funded.
As a result of a few highly profitable patents (gene splicing and
Gatorade, for example), most campuses have created an infrastructure
for encouraging research that has commercial applications.
What are we
required to do under Bayh-Dole? First, universities must have an
agreement with the faculty about how patents will be handled and
how royalties will be distributedin other words, spelling
out how faculty get a piece of the action. Secondly, schools must
notify the feds about inventions and the status of patents. The
feds get use of the patents for free and have the rights to the
research if the university doesn't use it (which has never
happened). Many states have also enacted laws that can affect what
a university can do and how royalties must be distributed.
How do most
universities handle intellectual property? They generally use a
disclosure form to document a new idea or concept. This form then
goes to a university patent committee or to an intellectual property
associate for review, to see if the concept is patentable (a new
and unique idea not obvious to someone skilled in the art) and potentially
salable (meaning that money can be made, allowing for the $10,000
to $30,000 that U.S. patents can cost, more for foreign patents).
The inventor participates in the process to ensure the total idea
is correctly captured by the patent. Next, the technology transfer
or licensing personnel gets involved to try to sell the IP. Again,
the inventors must be involved since they know the invention the
best and are the most qualified to support its marketing.
Why is it important
for us as faculty to participate in intellectual property? First,
the feds say we must if we expect to keep our federal contracts.
Not only that, many of our industrial partners expect us to provide
intellectual property opportunities and support as a part of any
research done for them. Intellectual property can also drive economic
development by forming and expanding businesses. It is also important
to note that many institutions are now recognizing that patents
are equal to traditional refereed publication in promotion and tenure
decisions. Finally, IP can be profitable for all concerned, and
can provide excellent contacts for the inventor for the funding
of future research.
Support intellectual property activities; it is good for you and
good for your institution.
M. Owens is associate dean of engineering at Auburn University.
Development of Biomolecular Sensors Program
Amount: Contact sponsor.
Deadline: April 30
Description: To develop biomolecular sensors for Earth and space,
including technologies and informatics tools for minimally invasive
detection, diagnosis, and management of disease and injury
Contact: Richard Hartmann, (301) 496-8620, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or see http://rcb.nci.nih.gov/
Engineering Research Grants
Amount: Contact sponsor.
Deadline: Proposals accepted at any time.
Description: Developing the foundations for the design and construction
of complex software systems, including linear logic and related
proof systems, software testing, formal algorithm derivation, and
formal proof of correctness.
Contact: Ralph Wachter, Program Officer, (703) 696-4304; e-mail:
or see www.onr.navy.mil/sci_tech/information/onrpgaaj.htm
Science and Engineering Collaborative Grants
Amount: $250,000-$500,000 per year for up to four years
Deadline: Sept. 18
Description: Collaborative research in the area of nanoscale science
and engineering, including biosystems, device and system architecture,
design tools and software, multiscale, multiphenomena modeling,
and societal implications.
Contact: See www.nsf.gov/pubs/2000/nsf00119/nsf00119.txt
for information on the appropriate program officer to contact.
are reprinted from GrantSelect, the online version of the Grants
Database published by Oryx Press; A one-year subscription to www.grantselect.com
costs $1,000. Used with permission from The Oryx Press, 4041 N.
Central Ave., Suite 700, Phoenix, AZ 85012; (800) 279-6799; www.oryxpress.com.
by Andrea Tallent
Systems, Inc. (ESI) has released its newest version of PULSAR Construction
Cost Estimating Software. Called PULSAR 2001, the software is suitable
for military bases and government agencies who use Job Order Contracting
(JOC) and SABER (Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements)
methods for construction delivery. PULSAR uses the R.S. Means Cost
Database, which includes over 40,000 construction line items containing
labor, material, and equipment costs, adjusted by city, for 715
geographic areas around the country. PULSAR 2001 is the only software
that views construction line items in the same format as Means'
Unit Price Books.
Estimating Software is available for public or private sector use,
is GSA approved, and works on Windows 95/98/NT operating systems.
Further information on PULSAR Estimating Software can be obtained
by calling (800) 967-8572, by visiting www.estimatingsystems.com,
or by writing to: PULSAR Estimating Software, P.O. Box 1301, Forestdale,
Corporation, a company that develops, manufactures and markets some
of the world's fastest 3D printers, has introduced the Z402
3D Printer. The device produces physical parts from CAD and other
digital data, using ink-jet technology to build models layer by
layer with a glue binder and powder.
Z Corporation is currently offering an educational package reduced
from the regular price of $57,000 to $40,000. To evaluate Z Corporation
Printers, see www.zcorp.com/zoupon/education.shtml.
You can have the company produce a free physical model of your design.
is also offering to print parts for design contest winners, and
the company will provide curriculum support. For more information,
call (781) 852-5063 or e-mail: email@example.com.
descriptions are based on manufacturers' literature. Endorsement
by ASEE is not implied.
Teaching Toolbox articles - Research,
Teaching, On Campus,