taught that giving credit where credit is due is a basic tenet of science. Scientists understand that their discoveries are based on the work of many other people and that it is very important to give proper credit in publications and spoken presentations for the work that went beforehand. That is how intellectual royalties are paid. However, in patent law, all the rewards go to the person who gets to the step of establishing utility first; the basic work that led to that point is not compensated. That is just a fact of life. It makes researchers uncomfortable, and it could get worse. For example, if someone actually got to patent ESTs, and I took a gene with a patented EST and discovered its function, I might not get any financial reward for my effort; the person who patented the ESTs would get the reward. That would clearly be a disincentive for most scientists, and we need to worry about it. Short of changing or rewriting the whole patent law, I am not sure what can be done. That seems to me a much more serious concern than problems with the exchange of material.
Lita Nelsen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
From the perspective of university administrators, the primary reason to license and protect intellectual property is to induce development and thereby make the products of university research available to taxpayers. Nowadays, expectations of economic development resulting from taxpayers' fundamental research spending are much greater. The university also wants to induce development because the business community wants it. When MIT helps to establish small incubator companies, the city of Cambridge gets more jobs and local real-estate values go up.
If the university wants to attract industrial sponsorship of research, it must have an intellectual property program. The faculty also appreciate the benefits of an intellectual property program. They earn royalties. Some of them get a great deal of psychic reward out of seeing their research actually cure disease or become commercially available products. More mundanely, if we have patents that we license to companies that will hire consultants, our faculty have more consulting opportunities. We think it is good for our teaching mission to have our laboratories engaged in real world problems and bringing industry in. Many of our graduates go to work for our licensees.
Many people believe that the role of technology transfer offices is to make money. University-based technology transfer is not a good way to make money. The MIT technology transfer office is seen as one of the more successful and lucrative university licensing offices. But its revenues are relatively modest.
MIT's budget is close to $1 billion a year, which includes $350 million in research at MIT and $350 million in research at Lincoln Laboratories. The gross income of the technology transfer office is $8 million, including all patent ex-