World Intellectual Property Organization

Learning the Ropes: Technology Licensing in Universities

September 2005

Seated around a negotiating table at the University of Karana, a group of lawyers, university staff and company executives thrash out a technology licensing deal in which everyone wins. The issues are real, the case convincing – except that there is of course no such place as Karana. And the technology in question does not yet exist.

This was in fact a role-playing exercise, the culmination of a WIPO-run training workshop in Yaounde, Cameroon, on how to negotiate successful technology licensing agreements. In the above photograph, participants representing a notional biotechnology company are negotiating with university representatives the precise terms of an IP license, under which the company would acquire the rights to develop and market a new malaria treatment, invented and patented by a Karana University professor and his team.

Role-playing scenarios form a core part of the WIPO training, allowing participants to put theory into practice, to experience a negotiation from the other side of the table, and to experiment with different approaches.

A group of 15 jurists and 35 research scientists completed this last course in July. They had come from Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and the Republic of Congo. The Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN) funded and co-organized the training, and experts from Swiss institutions generously provided their time both in hands-on teaching and in preparing reference materials.

R&D Networks Project

Training of this sort is an integral part of the WIPO-led R&D Networks Project, which began a year ago in September 2004, with GIAN funding.

The project aims to test a ‘networks and hub’ model as a means of boosting the capacity of research institutions in developing countries to create, own and license IP assets (primarily patents), thereby converting research results into revenue. Working closely with partner organizations, the project has established two research networks in the field of health, one in Central Africa and one in Colombia. The project began by identifying fundamental problems, such as the absence of IP policies in universities, the chronic shortage of patent agents and of other legal and marketing experts. It is now seeking to address these by equipping a pool of people with key skills, and creating shared hubs of IP resources. (For a full description of the project and desired outcomes see WIPO Magazine of September/October 2004, accessible on the WIPO website).

Feedback from the workshops has been enthusiastic. In the words of one participant: “One inspiration I got from the conference was that I did not need to wait for a research sponsor from a big donor, but could without fear spend my own money and come out with something scientifically excellent.”

The following publications on technology licensing are available from the WIPO e-bookshop:

  • Exchanging Value – Negotiating Technology Licensing Agreements: A Training Manual (2005). Publication no. 906.
  • Successful Technology Licensing (2004). Publication no. 903.

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