Thursday, 4 January 2007

Now universities are Patent Trolls!

Over at TechDirt there's a piece titled:Universities Get Into Patent Trolling Game; Sue Over Bluetooth, the post and comments all suggest, without knowing the context, that a university pursuing IP is fundamentally wrong. I don't think this issue is quite so simple, not just because Bluetooth was pretty groundbreaking and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out there's some inventive stuff in it, but also because of the implied alternative. From time-to-time it's suggested that Universities should put all their IP in the public domain, but my own experience is that this has proved to help no-one. The stuff Universities tend to brew is usually very early stage and needs loads of further R&D to be proved, let alone turned into products. If no-one sees a way of getting some return for the work, then in my experience they really wont spend the dollars to do so. A few years ago I tried to get a piece of really clever radio-frequency technology developed, unfortunately it's origin meant that all the major telecom companies could get equal rights to the core patent. The result was that we couldn't get a commercial position to do the research needed to find out if it would really work.