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Immunity Community

Publication Date: 
April 09, 2008
Daily Journal IP Supplement
Craig Anderson

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted in an article in the Daily Journal Intellectual Property Supplement about the involvement of universities in patent ownership and the resulting royalties from patents:

The number of patents obtained by universities has increased 16-fold since 1980, according to Stanford Law School professor Mark Lemley in a research paper last year provocatively titled "Are Universities Patent Trolls?" He argues that universities are increasingly sophisticated both in recognizing the value of their inventions and in wielding political clout to block patent reform efforts that would, among other proposals, limit injunctive relief.

Lemley writes that he has spoken to many corporate executives who believe universities, eager for the money from their patents, are increasingly likely to grant lucrative exclusive licenses to one company instead of licensing their inventions to anyone willing to pay.

In one high-profile example, a federal jury awarded a small company, Eolas Technology, a verdict of more than $500 million against Microsoft Corp. in 2003 because its Internet Explorer software infringed Eolas' browser-based software. The patent was licensed from the University of California, which shared in the jury verdict and eventual settlement.

"It's not necessarily problematic that universities enforce their patents," Lemley said. But some of the developments, in biotechnology, are "the basic building blocks of knowledge."

"There are more patents, and more high-profile ones," Lemley said. "There is a growing sense of frustration by people in the corporate world."