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Benefits to Public Research through IP

Benefits For Public Research Through IP

Governments themselves have much to gain from the IP system as they fund research into new technologies in such fields as biotechnology, organic and industrial chemistry, informatics and vehicles, and general technology. The trend worldwide has been for governments to implement programmes for identifying patentable inventions that arise from publicly funded research, to secure patent protection for such inventions and to promote licensing and commercialisation of these inventions.This trend began in the US with the Bayh-Dole Act, which entered into force in 1981. This gave academic institutions the right to retain IP rights in federally funded research, so long as they notify the funding agency, file patent applications, work actively to commercialise the invention and license the government to exercise the patent rights royalty-free. According to a Council on Government Relations report published in 1999, Bayh-Dole led to more than 8,000 US patents between 1993 and 1997 alone, the creation of 2,200 new companies, more than 1,000 new products and approximately 250,000 jobs and US$30 billion in economic activity, based on technologies originally developed in academia with public funding. Similar trends have been seen in the UK, Germany, Belgium and several other European and other countries that have adopted comparable laws. The share of public research institutions’ patent filings among total patent applications at the EPO jumped from about 0.5% in 1981 to nearly 4% per cent in the early 2000s. Developing countries also see the benefit of identifying and protecting IP in academic research. Most recently, South Africa adopted its IP Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Bill in January 2009. Its stated reasons for identifying and protecting the IP arising from publicly funded research, as set out in a press release from the country’s Department of Science and Technology, summarise well the benefits for governments and the wider economy: “[Commercialising] intellectual property resulting from publicly financed research … for the benefits of all South Africans”; providing “clear guidance on how to ensure that publicly financed IP gets out into the market place and is used”; “facilitating the creation of new knowledge that is derived from public funding”; and “driving South Africa towards a knowledge based economy in which the production and dissemination of knowledge leads to economic benefits”.

[This is an excerpt from the publication released by WIPO called The Role of IP in Promoting Economic Growth through Innovation. To read the complete publication, please visit the Download menu to get a copy]