AUTM, the clueless inventor-loathing organization

. . . AUTM, of course, is already opposed, using their usual argument that everyone else is a stupid idiot and only AUTM has the intellectual capacity to navigate such “incredibly complex and nuanced matter.”

{/vent} AUTM is the organization, remember, that couldn’t get Bayh-Dole right after thirty years of trying. AUTM opposed Kauffman Foundation’s call for discussion of ways to improve technology transfer by restoring the invention agent marketplace that Bayh-Dole anticipated would operate. Check out AUTM’s “No Free Agency resource center.” Here’s their featured graphic:


They oppose the idea of public *discussion*! AUTM prevented IP Advocate from simply informing its members about past and current lawsuits brought by universities against faculty inventors. AUTM folks of course opposed my call for changes in light of Stanford v Roche. Instead, what are you AUTMites off doing? Helping backfill the loss of “federal law requires assignment” with goofball “present assignments” that make hash of policy, IP practice, and innovation alike? Whenever there is a call for diversity, change, or innovation in research innovation management, you can be sure AUTM will be there with fallacious arguments, deceptive metrics, and the insinuation that no-one else on the planet should be allowed to speak to the interests of IP policy, university research, or innovation allied with that research.

Message for you, AUTM: you can’t write an IP policy to save your souls, can’t understand the legislation that gave you all jobs, and whenever you have had a chance to support innovation, you’ve managed to find yourself arguing against it in the name of your paltry income streams. You have lost credibility. You have been wrong on the law, wrong on  policy, wrong on practice, and wrong on outcomes.

There are plenty of people out and around who have experience with these matters, can think things through plenty well, and aren’t at all interested in supporting your suppression of diversity, repression of faculty research, and transmogrification of scholarship into a bureaucratic paywall.  And there are a lot of people with good sense that can’t speak out, mostly because of you, AUTM, because you don’t support a forum that encourages such discussion. You put forward the same old retrenched positions that sound good but have never worked nearly the way you say they have. Still you want to turn these positions into a system, and put it all beyond discussion.

So enough of the fallacious arguments and the inventor-loathing:

“This position assumes that faculty alone are the most qualified to make decisions about how and to whom technologies are licensed. It also ignores the fact that most university inventions are produced by more than one faculty member and, increasingly, by faculty from collaborating universities,” the statement said.

No, the position does not assume that faculty alone are the most qualified to make decisions. The position is founded on the reality that faculty investigators choose their research, choose their sponsors, choose their collaborators, choose what and how to publish, and choose the beneficiaries of their work. They are more than capable of also choosing what is inventive, and when patents might be useful to promoting the use of what they have developed. They are also perfectly capable of asking for assistance and sizing up who knows what they are talking about and has skills and aptitude appropriate to the desired goals. The position is based on academic freedom, on shared governance, and for the proper role for university administration in providing safeguards for industry engagement.  The position is based on the reality that university technology transfer flourished under faculty leadership, and it was that flourishing that was the basis for the Bayh-Dole Act. But these are things that AUTM doesn’t know, or doesn’t want anyone else to know. So they have to pop off with something trite about “oversimplification,” as if the mess they have made of faculty publication, industry collaboration, and innovation is something we all have desired.

Anyone can learn university technology transfer in a couple of years. Anyone who has the chops to be on the faculty at a research university also has the chops to learn what they need to know about patents, licensing, and who should be part of their networks to make something happen. They can learn what they need to know in a matter of days, if not hours. And they have the advantage that they don’t have to learn a bunch of bureaucratic processes, and they don’t have know how to deal with the inventions of 500 inventors in entirely different areas of practice. Faculty will learn a lot faster if they have bona fide help from people who have worked at these things, rather than getting fed misinformation and rah-rah spin about the “successes” of the technology licensing office, and being subjected to the dumbest possible model (compulsory commercialization) with (in nearly every case) an inconsistent, incoherent IP policy built to maximize administrative convenience and authority, personal initiative and insight be screwed.

So enough of the implication that faculty and students are too dumb to manage their scholarship and to find folks to help them, that they cannot work out how to share their work. Faculty created the American approach to technology transfer, to the use of patents, to the creation of research foundations. You don’t own them, AUTM, you *owe* them.

Given that you have become an anti-innovation lobbying organization, states that care about their public university faculty more than they care about patent licensing shops that repress rather than encourage innovation should ban their public universities from paying the dues for your public university members. They really should defund you, AUTM. You are running on public subsidies and you have the audacity to lobby the government to block personal initiative, academic collaboration, and innovation. You have made a mess of a good thing. You are a stinker of an organization that can’t figure out whether to serve autocracy or freedom when it comes to innovation. Big choice. Maybe someday you will actually *ponder it* before you mouth off on matters of innovation policy. Maybe then you will have a conversion experience and get things back on track.

The federal government–the public–spends around $40b a year on university research. The IP stuff matters, as IP touches on many of the most important outputs and practices of university research. It’s time to be blunt, rather than dancing around the issue for years on end while the economy stagnates and university administrators grab more and more things “to commercialize,” and organizations like AUTM work to block even the discussion of change by insinuating that faculty don’t know anything and whatever AUTM doesn’t like or can’t comprehend must be poorly thought out. Well now.  {/vent}

There, I feel much better.

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