Universities are the primary centers of knowledge creation. The core mission of the research that is conducted in universities worldwide is two-fold: To engage in discoveries which are beneficial for the society and to engage in transfer of knowledge through various means which include but not limited to publications, training and education of students, employment of graduates, conferences, consultations, collaborations and obtaining rights in the form of copyrights and patents.1 Intellectual Property rights can be in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. The academic research is predominantly concerned with patents and copyrights with a few cases of trademarks and trade secrets. These rights stimulate competition, create and maintain an ecosystem of continuous and quality innovation. By providing a limited monopoly for a given period of time to the creators, innovation is encouraged, benefitting the society at the same time.
There is an ensuing debate about the increasing shift in the focus of the university research from actively publishing, transferring the knowledge to the public to actively engaging in industry sponsored commercialization of the research results. The chief concern that was raised by the dissidents/naysayers of commercialization is about the compromise that can occur in free circulation and exchange of the research knowledge to the public. Even though Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) can promote the conversion of the research into public benefits, the very fact that they are monopolies can bring about a clash between the private profit and public good.2 3 The right balance between the commercialization and public benefit needs to be set, lest the IPRs can block the free exchange of the ideas and eventually result in private aggrandization with very little benefit to the public. There is a strong push in both developed and developing countries by policy makers to encourage generation of revenues for university research outside and beyond the government grants by forging connections with the industry. While there are serious concerns that the resultant narrow focus on quality research can ultimately restrict the flow and advancement of science, there is a huge surge in university led commercialization of the research knowledge. Ideally, university start- ups or university spin-offs can offer a means of resolving the tensions of commercializing knowledge and capturing the economic benefits by creating a niche ecosystem which can utilize the university research and the resulting IPRs at a local level4. Creation of awareness about IPR protection among the students and the academicians is an important step in making progress in the direction of commercialization of a viable research project and its product. Studies have shown that not mere creation of IPR awareness but there is also a need to emphasize the change in research ecosystem wherein the researchers are aided in identifying the correct research problems with industrial applicability and providing incentives to researchers for innovation, establishing of technology transfer offices and IPR departments as a part of every research institute.5
Exploitation of university resources to create wealth has been a major agenda around the world and has been duly incorporated into national IPR policies. Bayh-Dohl Act of 1980 (University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act) of USA propelled major changes in patent policies in university context, resulting in increased collaboration of academia and industries. Although there are mixed reviews about the act, it initiated a chain reaction in the U.S. university research base and resulted in considerable amount of commercialization of the university research. Based on this Act, several other nations adopted their national IPR policies. The government of India introduced Protection and Utilization of Public Funded Intellectual Property bill (PUPFIPB)-2008 in Rajyasabha. However, the bill faced serious criticism because of its lack of understanding of the Indian research milieu and the socio-economic factors of the country.6 The National IPR policy of India which was adopted in 2016 also attracted a considerable amount of resistance because of its undue emphasis on commercialization and value less patents. Encouraging the establishment of university startups and open access publishing which helps to ensure proper dissemination of knowledge were suggested as some of the desirable means of encouraging innovation and further public interest.
- Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest Committee---National research council of the national academies
- The impact of intellectual property rights on the scientific publication chain Roger Elliott---Learned Publishing (2005)18, 91–94
- Keeping science open: the effects of intellectual property policy on the conduct of science: The royal Society Report (www.royalsoc.ac.uk.)
- Making sense of diversity and reluctance: academic–industrial relations and intellectual property Brian Rappert, Andrew Webster, David Charles ---Research Policy 28 _1999. 873–890
- India: Reforming University Research Ecosystem Can Help Uplift India's IPR Index ---Singh and Associates
- Does India needs its own Bayh-Dole? The perils of all scientific research being geared for profits—Sunil Abraham in The Hindu