IP Outreach Research > IP Use and Awareness


Title: The Effects of Patenting in the AAAS Scientific Community
Author: Stephen Hansen, Amanda Brewster, Jana Asher and Michael Kisielewski [American Association for the Advancement of Science]


Year: 2006


Subject/Type: IP Protection
Focus: Access to Information, Patents
Country/Territory: International, United States of America
Objective: To assess the effects of patenting and exclusive licensing on research conducted in academia, industry, the non-profit community and government across a range of scientific fields.
Sample: 843 American Association for the Advancement of Science members actively conducting or managing research, or specialising in intellectual property
Methodology: Web-based survey

Main Findings

24% of respondents reported having acquired a patented technology for use in their research since 2001. In most cases, acquired patented technology came either from industry (59%) or academia (51%), and originated in researchers' own scientific field (79%). Generally, industry respondents had acquired patented technology at a higher rate than those from academia. Intellectual property (IP) acquisition rates were highest in "Biosciences" and "Engineering, Math & Computer Sciences".

Overall, the most popular method of acquisition of patented technology was the use of a material transfer agreement (MTA, used by 35%), which was most widespread among academic bioscience respondents (65%). Nonexclusive licenses ranked second with 29%, and were most highly used in social and behavioural sciences (67%) and math and computer science (60%). Exclusive licensing ranked third with 20%, and was used in a greater proportion of acquisitions by industry respondents (32%) than acquisitions by academic respondents (16%). Confidentiality agreements were employed by 20%. In total, 30% of IP acquisition transactions included a research exemption, above all in biological or biomedical technologies (with 40% and 36%, respectively). Technologies originating from academia were more likely to include a research exemption (40%) than those from industry (23%).

Whereas technology acquisition was fastest for non-exclusive licensing, it took longest for exclusive licenses. Acquisitions from industry tended to be completed faster than those from academia; transaction in physics, astronomy and biomedical science were most likely to take longer than six months. 40% of respondents (especially in biosciences) reported that their research had been affected by difficulties in obtaining patented technology. Difficulty in obtaining patented technology resulted in delayed research (58%), changing research (50%) and abandoning research (28%). Reasons for changing or abandoning research include "overly complex licensing negotiations", "high individual royalties", and "necessary patents not licensable".

In total, 46% of predominantly industry respondents reported having created IP eligible for protection. The most-used method to protect IP was patents (used by 55%), followed by copyright (21%) and various informal protection mechanisms (used by 36%, consisting of withholding data, delaying publication, not publishing at all, or combinations thereof). For all economic sectors, the most important motivation for patenting was "protecting technology from imitation. Other important motivations were "acquiring private R&D funding" (in academia) and "preventing competitors' patenting and application activities" (in industry).

62% of IP creators who had attempted to protect it with a patent reported that they also had disseminated the technology in some way: 88% of academic respondents had disseminated their technologies either through publishing, informal sharing, or both methods (rather than via licensing); among industry respondents, the percentage was 76%. Both academia and industry preferred dissemination within their own sector. Top reasons against dissemination were "development and commercialisation plans" (for industry) and "future research plans" (for academia).

Given that licensing of patented technologies was not the primary means by which respondents within academia acquired or disseminated technology, the authors argue that academia might be less affected than industry by more restrictive and formal licensing practices in the acquisition of necessary patented technologies for research. Thus, the so-called "anti-commons" effect, in which non-commercial academic research is hindered by the imposition of long negotiations and expensive licenses to acquire necessary research inputs from either industry or academia, seems to be limited.

[Date Added: Aug 18, 2008 ]