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Academic patent value and knowledge transfer in the UK. Does patent ownership matter?

MPRA Working Paper No. 34955 (2011)

This paper deals with an issue which is particularly relevant in the literature on IPR and university-industry knowledge transfer: is the ownership structure of academic inventions relevant for patent quality and the efficiency of the knowledge transfer process? This question is also particularly significant in Europe where some countries have followed the Bayh-Dole Act example in the USA to increase the involvement level of universities in IP management. The paper uses a novel dataset of academic inventors in the UK, which includes university patents (i.e. patents owned by universities) and corporate patents (i.e. patents signed by academic scientists but owned by private companies) in the period 1990-2001. The UK is an interesting case to study due to the tradition of university involvement in IP management as it was one of the first countries to implement the university ownership model.
The main results may be summarised as follows.
(1) Controlling for observable patent and scientist characteristics, corporate patents received more citations than university patents in the first three years after filing, but (2) this difference is less significant when considering a longer time window. However, (3) there is no knowledge fertilisation across public (university) and private institutions: university patents mainly cite other university patents and the same reasoning applies to corporate patents. Moreover (4) knowledge flows from university patents are even more geographically localised than those from corporate patents. Finally, (5) among scientists' characteristics, a professor's scientific quality and his patenting experience seem to be correlated with patent value.
From a policy prospective, the results in points (1), (2) and (3) cast some doubts on the role of university ownership as an instrument to foster and facilitate knowledge transfer between academia and industry and raise serious questions about the e¤ect of policies towards increasing the role of technology transfer offices in managing academic patents.


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