for Dr. Gabriel. Referring to recent testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on nanotechnology, he described the opinion of a senior scientist from Hewlett-Packard that U.S. universities had become more difficult to partner with on sponsored research, because they insisted on tougher policies on intellectual property rights. He asked whether in fact leading research universities were trying harder to retain patent ownership, and whether it would be possible to develop a balance that would allow universities to spawn new businesses and major R&D companies to benefit from research done at universities.

Adjusting to the Age of Intellectual Property

Dr. Gabriel said that universities were indeed becoming more savvy than they had been in the early 1980s, and that IP was “a tough domain.” Companies had once approached universities, she said, with the expectation that universities knew little about IP issues. As universities entered this domain with IP offices of their own, they had been “stumbling sometimes” as they moved along the learning curve to navigate the constraints of nonprofit law, IRS rulings, export controls, and the preservation of an open research environment. But she pointed out that companies also find each other hard to deal with, because intellectual property issues are “inherently contentious.” “This is just a fact of life,” she said, “and we’re all going to have to learn from each other about how to make it easier.”

Fred Adler, of WDC USA World-Wide, who identified himself as a former colleague of Dr. Flamm at the Department of Defense, said that he had been in Tokyo during the Sarin nerve gas attack on subway passengers. He asked whether it would be profitable to partner with the Japanese, in the assumption that the Sarin attack had served as a “technology accelerator.” He also asked how public-private partnerships might be arranged with Japan, especially in the context of the planned global disaster information network.

Dr. Flamm agreed that there are strong anti-terrorism resources outside the United States, especially in Europe and Israel, and that he hoped we are tapping these resources. Mr. Adler added that there is good technology in many places, but that few of them have sufficient funding for investment.

Mr. Borrus said that “we have no choice but to partner; knowledge is too widespread around the world for us to do it ourselves.” He noted that patterns of direct foreign investment already show that private companies know this and are exploiting technical specialization around the globe. He urged efforts to locate partnerships in the U.S. whenever possible so as to gain the most value from knowledge spillovers.

Dr. Bement closed the discussion by observing that NIST partnered with about 40 national metrology institutes around the world, bringing many of their members to NIST as guest scientists. He found that some of them, especially those from Japan, contributed valuable insights through their strengths in analytical chemistry, detection technology, and other fields.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement