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Title: Patents, Universities and the Provision of Social Goods in the Information Society
Author(s): MAY, Christopher
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 13    Issue: 2   Date: June 2006   
Pages: 289-304
DOI: 10.2143/EP.13.2.2016635

Abstract :
In the past, for universities, the suggestion that they rather than other, commercial, actors should seek to control and profit from the results of research was hardly entertained at all, not least as in many cases these institutions jealously guarded their relative unconnectedness from the market. How- ever, two political economic shifts have transformed this situation and the previous benign neglect of intellectual property in universities is unlikely to continue. On the commercial side, the increased share of value-added in many products has focussed corporate managers on the issue of the ownership and exploitation of knowledge and information. On the other side, universities have themselves have been suffering varying, and in some cases, quite extensive pressure as regards their publicly funded budgets. Thus, in many developed and developing countries, encouraged by their own governments, and in the case of developing countries, by international financial institutions, many universities have started to examine new ways of capitalising on their activities through market activities. This has led to many universities finding themselves torn between a norm of scientific community (and therefore the sharing of advances) and the requirements to use their research-related resources as sources of income. This article explores these issues and concludes that the university’s most obvious competitive advantage is in the provision of publicly available knowledge and research; to become too like the corporate sector is to invite conversion into commercial actors. We already have quite enough commercial actors in the global information society; our attention must be focussed on maintaining and even expanding the realm of the public research institution by building on the many centuries of success universities have enjoyed in providing social goods.

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