From the monthly archives:

November 2009

I’m spending at few days at the EIROForum meeting on technology transfer in Heidelberg. The EIROFoum is probably not well-known outside part of the scientific community. It groups together European Intergovernmental Research Organisations, such as CERN and EMBL.

Gabór Lamm from EMBL’s technology transfer arm EMBL-EM has just given a fascinating lecture outlining technology transfer. EMBL’s first patent was filed in 1990 but it was not until 1996 that a formal policy on intellectual property was established. The specialised technology transfer unit was only set up 1999 to commercialise intellectual property coming out of EMBL’s main campus in Heidelberg, as well as its outstations in Grenoble, Hinxton and Hamburg. Since then EMBL has filed over 250 patents and patent applications, protected 71 copyrights, which includes database rights, and set up 12 companies. They currently have an annual revenue of EUR 4,5 Million which more than covers expenses.

One of the most interesting points that came out of the lecture was the motivation of the individual researchers to file patents. The financial reward is attractive (30% of revenue, excluding direct patent costs) but more importantly is the expectation from researchers from outside of Europe for a functioning IP management organisation. This seems to contrast – as one questioner pointed out later in another context – with the attitude of some European researchers that intellectual property rights somehow jeopardize academic freedom.

Gabór noted that part of the mission of EMBL is to transfer technology to improve human health. This requires commercial companies (and EMBL have over 250 licencees). There has in the past been criticism that only 56% of the licencees come from Europe (and 20% from EMBL’s host country, Germany). 33% of the licencees come from the United States.

Interestingly EMBL-EM “broke even” in 2004 at which point the net revenues exceeded the expenses. Gabór Lamm noted that this was helped by the IPO of Lion Bioscience (now Sgnis Pharma AG). However, the annual licensing revenue now exceeds patenting costs.

One of the things that struck me about Gabór Lamm’s presentation was the contined need to invest in technology transfer and train scientists and engineers of the benefits to themselves personally and how technology transfer actually contributes to society. Technology transfer cannot be seen to be “merely” a cost factor – but immediate financial benefits cannot be expected. It took five years for EMBL to obtain a net profit from technology transfer – or 14 from the date of the first patent – and that was helped by the opportunity to commercialise a database in a very favourable investment climate.


eBay and Skype-settled

by Andrew Watson on 9 November 2009

It is reported overnight on the newswires that the Joltid and eBay dispute has been settled with the two former Skype founders taking a stake in the new Skype vehicle in return for dropping their claims. It seems like a common sense end to the disputes and Skype v2.0 (or is it 3.0) will no doubt benefit from their vision, passion and skills.

I wonder what a telco with 405m users would be worth? That is an awful lot of relationship capital to work with.

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A fourth week in the life – Cracking the IP Value Code

November 8, 2009

(thanks Richard Boulton) Phew. What a long long week. In fact October end to end has been hard work every step of the way. I’m not by any means saying that I’m pleased to see the back of it, but it’s been full of lots of ups and quite a few downs. I suppose though […]

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2010 IP hall of fame nominations

November 2, 2009

It’s that time of year again, and nominations are now open for the IP Hall of Fame. The IP Hall of Fame comes from the folks at Intellectual Asset Management magazine. Don’t just think of someone alive today – hall of fame members include Sir Edward Coke and Thomas Edison, though only the live members […]

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A third week in the life

November 1, 2009

At least one person, ie me, is getting something out of this exercise. It does seem to be adding some traffic to our blog though. I do often wonder who is looking at our stuff on the main site or on the blog. We found out when we registered the ipva domain that the ipva […]

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