Innovation Wants Freedom

The university invention equity approach was so much the better than the present compulsory ownership approach.

The equity discussion is flexible and allows for a broader set of responses.  It can consider acknowledgement, repayment, shop rights, a license to the university, a license for all non-profits or for all practitioners or for all medical applications, a share of income from licensing, the use of an independent agent who has a deal to share income with the university whatever the deal is with the inventor, or even ownership, if the invention was made expressly for the university or with the shared intent that the university would own it.  The equity approach is consistent with academic norms and especially academic freedom.  The equity approach is simple and clear.  The equity approach is about support and success not domination and ownership.

The equity approach is aligned with innovation.  It is the approach that was so successful that Bayh-Dole could be passed to allow it to operate for federally supported inventions, too.  Compulsory bureaucratic control is aligned with profiteering from monopoly positions, not with the use of the patent system to promote the use of inventions or collaboration between universities and industry.  Bureaucratic control is designed to suppress any alternatives that would make the bureaucratic program of profiteering look bad or diminish its access to things to monetize, or show alternatives that did not rely on, or care about, monopoly, monetization, or the use of patent rights as threats.

The equity approach does not depend on a deep legal knowledge of how inventions are owned. It does not require legal wrangling to sort out claims to ownership.  Invention equity does not require a university to cover the cost of dealing with every invention, filing patent applications, or trying to “market” each invention, or make a show of “marketing” to prevent anyone from accusing the university of failing to live up to its responsibilities.

The invention equity approach was at the heart of university research innovation prior to Bayh-Dole.  The invention equity approach gave faculty multiple ways to find ways to place their work for use–whether through a startup or an agent or publication or teaching students or whatever.   It was that ability to move opportunistically at the slightest whisper of possibility that made invention equity such a smart way of handling the introduction of invention management into academic work.

The idea that the only way inventions made by faculty and students will get used is if university administrators take out monopoly positions and shop them to speculators is ludicrous. It’s damaging.  It’s the slow damage of a garden falling into weeds, of a neighborhood becoming mean and unsafe, of someone putting down a book and deciding never to read anything by that author again.  You don’t get those in metrics.  AUTM will never report it.  You only get see it by living there, recognizing the slow changes as the lights go out and the speculators try to live on the last vestiges of what was once exciting for everyone and now is only exciting for them.

I suppose it could be debated, but here I choose to simply mock compulsory university ownership of inventions.  I mock it because it makes no sense.  I mock it because innovation takes many pathways, not merely one route through administrative processes.  I mock it because it makes looking out for administrative interests more important than taking care of scholarship.  I mock it because it needlessly burdens new findings with the overhead of administrative contracting apparatus.

I mock it because it attacks academic freedom, has lost its moral compass, damages university good will, lies about its outcomes, is incompetent in its execution, amounts to a shakedown of good people, misrepresents federal policy, refuses to comply with federal contracting requirements, plays on universities’ reputations for no good end, loses itself in crushingly bad policy statements, works against collaboration, competition, open science, and personal empowerment.

I mock it because in the end, it costs universities more than it benefits them, and for all the money a few deals do make, it destroys opportunity for many people.  I mock it because it undermines the university’s role as mediator and facilitator and supporter.  I mock it because it sells university research short and betrays the public imagination.  I mock it because it has foolishly and uncritically bought the snake oil and passed it around to all its neighbors.   I mock it because it is bondage.

Innovation wants freedom.

This entry was posted in Freedom, History, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.