We had a wonderful discussion in the #ENRIITCyourCoffee session today hosted by Ed Mitchell, Head of Business Development Office at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.
It was the fifth and final episode of 2020 that delved into the topic of intellectual property, with a specific focus on the ILO and ICO view on the drivers and barriers for industry and research infrastructures.
Ed opened the session with a calibration check by asking whether Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are a real issue or “just a load of hot air.” Ed provocatively put forward the argument for the later but then consensus built around the former: IPR is a real issue.
It paved the way for a discussion around the IPR issues which can get in the way of a RI-industry relationship. The issues that were raised included: ownership, clarity of understanding, scientific recognition, milestone payments, innovation, data-access restrictions, greediness, technology transfer and researcher co-operation. Ownership received the largest number of mentions.
Using the Mentimeter platform, Ed then seamlessly steered the conversation to talk about experiences of IPR with regards to the timing and nature of an agreement that is put in place. It was suggested that IPR for industry is not interesting for research infrastructures. Other points that were raised included input resources, 50-50 splits, exclusive and non-exclusive agreements, different fields of use and advanced vs retrospective agreements.
Ed then proposed to the group that “patents are a waste of time, money and admin resources”, and asked participants if they agreed. Most people disagreed with Ed and felt that they were “really useful.” Early stage patents were stated to be relatively inexpensive, but further down the line the costs ramp up (e.g. at national level and beyond). Nigel Wagstaff from EATRIS suggested that a way to address this is to team up with a partner that will take up the costs and give you a return on the investment. This would usually be in the form of an industry partner. This way there is a clear structure for how the costs would be paid over time. Consensus was given that this was a good approach. A distinction was then made (also by Nigel) that for *distributed* RI’s the IPR is held by individual institutes and facilities rather than the RI central co-ordination hub itself.
The discussion then moved on to staff rewards for generating IPR (e.g. a patent or licence). There was agreement that it should be recognised, but various different approaches exist. Some offer income renumeration (e.g. in the form of a cash bonus), percentage of license income (can be very difficult to manage though), inventor keeps their personal IRP, and others stated that there were no rewards where they are based.
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The ENRIITC team wishes you all the best for the holidays and a happy and fruitful 2021!