Patent licensing

Five Key Points on Patent Licensing

Intellectual property (IP) experts from across markets and industries convened for the Recognizing the Growing Economic Impact of Patent Licensing live webinar series hosted by the Innovation Alliance, the Association of University Technology Managers, the Licensing Executives Society, the Global Innovation Policy Center and IP Watchdog. The three-day event covered various aspects of patent licensing and its role as a major driver of economic growth and innovation. Here are five key takeaways offered by participants.


1. Patent licensing fuels economic development.

As suggested by the title of the series, the webinars largely focused on patent licensing’s positive impact on economic growth. As Dr. Walter Copan, Director at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, noted, “innovators are stepping up to give new access to technology and data – even ancillary technology – to open up innovation through patent licensing. Federal government investment is just the starting point, as ultimately the economic value creation is from the follow-on investors and the collaboration between the public and private sector.” He added, “it’s an investment cascade that enables new partnerships and collaboration.”

Han Sauer, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President for Intellectual Property at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, also underscored that bringing innovative products to market is a collaborative and economic-driving effort, not just within a given company but across other private and public entities. He noted that innovation – facilitated by patent licensing – creates “the value development chain by supporting follow-on capital investments.” To emphasize this value add, Sauer sited that for every dollar spent on public research, licensing makes it possible to deliver from 10 to more than 100 times that investment in private capital.


2. Patent licensing makes innovation accessible to those who need it.

Eric Victory, Vice President of Global Strategic Marketing at Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, underscored how licensing helps innovation reach users. He explained how “licensing offers an efficient way to transfer appropriate rights and IP,” noting that the many foundational discoveries happen at small biotechnology companies or within academia. These organizations may not have the capabilities of larger organizations, such as later stage research and development or manufacturing, to commercialize these inventions. Patent licensing is critical to enable technology transfer – helping the original innovators protect their invention, while collaborating with others to transform an early-stage concept into a final product for consumption.

“IP and licensing create a virtuous cycle that benefits our economy and society and fuels future innovation. We need to preserve reliability.” - Dr. Walter Copan, NIST Director

3. Patent licensing enables collaboration, like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many experts, like John Dubiansky, Director of Intellectual Property and Standards Policy at Dolby Laboratories , highlighted that patent licensing serves to encourage collaboration. Dubiansky emphasized that patent licensing, protected by IP rights, is a mechanism that can foster a number of collaborative arrangements – from those doing research and development to those executing consumer implementations. He noted, “there are instances when we all can benefit from companies working in the same ecosystem – and licensing enables that.” Numerous participants touted the role of licensing in facilitating collaboration to address the current pandemic. Victory, for example, shared that with the help of patent licensing, “the system is functioning as it should and, with COVID-19, we are seeing therapeutics and vaccines moving more rapidly than ever before in human history.” For instance, Eli Lilly and Company and Amgen, normally competitors, have entered into a partnership made possible by patent protection to increase supply capacity for potential COVID-19 therapies.

4. Patent licensing is necessary and should not be diminished.

With the current challenges due to COVID-19, some have called to alter, diminish or remove rights and protections surrounding patent licensing. Sauer made the point that “we’ve heard [the COVID-19 pandemic] is an extraordinary crisis, so we [as an industry] have been asked to do something extraordinary in response – like share IP for free. But COVID has shown us that providing ‘naked access’ to IP won’t solve this crisis. What we need is companies to find each other and bring together resources and technologies to fight this crisis. Companies are able to set up collaborations at remarkable speed.” And maintaining strong IP policies is especially important now, during a pandemic, added Ian D. McClure, Executive Director of the Office of Technology Commercialization at the University of Kentucky. He said, “we can’t forget that standards cannot be set in a time of crisis.” He further shared that these incentives have to be balanced. “Patent strength and patent policy have a big impact on ability to bring inventions forward because they spur commitment to research dollars to these inventions.”

5. To be effective, patent licensing needs to be enforced.

McClure put it simply: “the value of intellectual property rights exists if, and to the extent that, they are enforceable.” Going further, Laurie Self, Senior Vice President and Counsel, Government Affairs, Qualcomm, warns that enforcing patent licensing is critical for innovation leaders to maintain competitiveness. She noted, “If we can’t rely on a patent system to support and create incentives, then you’ve fundamentally diminished the ability of our innovation economy. When you diminish fundamental incentives and layer on top regulatory policies like antitrust, you undercut the ability of the U.S. to compete.” She also explained that given a shift from markets like the U.S. to Asia and elsewhere for research and development activities, “if we don’t course correct, we will never regain that leadership. It’s a fragile ecosystem that’s worked well because we’ve had strong policies to support property rights, but those have been eroded over the past 10 to 15 years.”

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