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Document Details :
Title: Should Universities File Patent Applications?
Author(s): CAPART, Gilles
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Date: June 2006
The filing of patent applications by universities remains a debatable issue in Europe more than 25 years after the Bayh Dole Act in the U.S.A. The European Commission and several national governments are currently exerting pressure on universities to take a more active part in the innovation process. The importance of university research as a source of technology is increasing in the knowledge economy, which is characterized by open innovation. The funding of research may eventually be at stake. Patent applications are essential instruments in the knowledge-transfer process. They enable universities to reconcile their mission of disseminating knowledge with a direct participation in innovation. They contribute to the development of new products, to the funding of more collaborative research with industry, and to the creation of new companies. This article offers guidelines for making the filing of patent applications by universities consistent or even synergistic with their other missions. Yet, despite all these considerations, the propensity of European universities to file patent applications is 5 times lower than in the U.S.A., which is also reflected in the other knowledge-transfer indicators. This article suggests two reasons for this lower propensity: the mindset of the mostly independent European universities based on the Humboldt model and the much less attractive European patent system for universities.