Protection of Innovation

Protection of intellectual property is based on the concept that to promote exploration, investigation, research and discovery, authors and inventors should, for a limited time, have exclusive rights to use and benefit from the products of their work.

It wasn't until the U.S. Congress passed the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act that U.S. universities became significantly involved with patenting or licensing to protect research results or other intellectual property. In 1974 a professional society focusing on university technology management and patenting issues was created. This organization evolved to become the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).

The Bayh-Dole Act gave universities an option to claim ownership of inventions that had been created with U.S. government funding. The option required the university to patent the technology and seek a licensee and to share a portion of royalty income with inventors. As a consequence of this, according to a 2000 survey by AUTM:

  • U.S. universities received a total of $1,260 million in royalties
  • Licensed product sales totaled $60 billion in the world economy
  • 400,000 new U.S. jobs were created
  • New invention disclosures at U.S. universities totaled 13,032
  • New patents filed on behalf of U.S. universities totaled 6,375
  • More than 4,300 new licenses were granted by U.S. universities for technology programs. A total of 12% of these licenses went to start-up companies.

Ways of Protecting Intellectual Property

Protecting intellectual property does not guarantee market success; failure to protect intellectual property virtually guarantees that the most successful innovation or technology will bring no rewards to its creators. Different types of intellectual property are protected in different ways:

  • Copyrights protect "original works of authorship," such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.
  • Patents protect inventors by allowing them "to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention" within the U.S., its territories and possessions. Patents are given to any "new, useful process, machine or composition of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof." Additional information about patents is available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Trademarks protect any word, symbol, design, combination of letters or numbers or other device that identifies and distinguishes a product or a service in the marketplace. Iconic in nature, once it has been established through promotions such as advertising, marketing, trade shows or other means, it becomes an extremely valuable, albeit intangible, asset. More information on trademarks is available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

International Patent Offices

For researchers and scientists working in Central and Eastern Europe, the following links may be helpful:

List of Patent Offices