Monday, November 27, 2000

UC increases patent income




By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For a second year, the University of Cincinnati ranks 31st among 94 research schools in revenues from patent licensing agreements.

        UC earned $3.9 million from patent licenses last year, up from $3.3 million in 1998, according to a survey by the Association of University Technology Managers.

        Most of that money came from inventions by engineering and medical faculty members.

        Top UC earners include Cardiolite and Myoview, two products used to study the human heart.

        As the money trickles in, about half goes to the inventors and their UC colleagues, said Wim J. Van Ooij, a professor of engineering and materials science.

        The silicon-based metal-coating method he brought to UC when he left industry in 1993 was licensed to a German firm, and it recently reached the market.

        “The royalties are not so high yet,” Dr. Van Ooij said, but he expects millions when aircraft and other industries adopt the technology.

        That's much better than private industry, where his employer owned the patents and controlled the licenses, he added.

        The 1999 survey put UC ahead of Michigan, Northwestern and Georgia Tech, but far behind Columbia, Yale, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. The University of Kentucky's research foundation was 44th, with income of nearly $2.5 million.

        UC gives inventors 60 percent of the first $50,000 received from licenses, regardless of how many years it takes to reach that figure. Departments get 15 percent; the college, 5 percent; and UC, 20 percent. If revenue rises above $50,000, the inventor's percentage decreases.

        Typically, Dr. Van Ooij continued, everyone who made a significant contribution is listed on the patent; internal agreements stipulate how the revenues will be divided.

        This is a relatively new attitude at UC, said Stephen Kowel, dean of the College of Engineering. Historically, faculty have embraced the unrealistic impulse to share findings without seeking patents. “We're working very hard to change the attitude.”

        The catch, he said, is that industry won't invest in something it does not own or have a license to produce.

        Now, new faculty orientation includes sessions on recognizing discoveries that warrant a patent and could produce income for the scholars and school, Dr. Kowel continued. “We've just begun pushing this.”

        Revenue from patent licenses was about $2.7 million in 1997 and $2.2 million in 1996.

        In 1999, UC income came from 16 active licensing agreements. At the same time, UC faculty obtained six new U.S. patents, applied for another 36, and participated somehow in four new start-up companies.

        Columbia University topped the 1999 poll with approximately $89 million in income from 212 licenses. Its faculty received 77 patents and applied for another 109.

        The professors were involved in five startup companies.

        The University of California was second in income with $74 million.

       



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