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Commercialization to lead academic patents

Updated: Mar 26, 2020 China Daily Print

China has introduced new measures to ensure the value of academic patents and spur the transfer of inventions from universities to the marketplace.

Some universities are focusing too much on the number of patents and not on their value and commercialization, according to a statement on the Ministry of Education website. It developed the measures with the National Intellectual Property Administration and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The new measures aim to restore the original purpose of patenting. Patents are not filed for gaining more points on evaluation forms — they are obtained to protect innovations, according to the statement.

Universities should realize that an invention would become their "greatest loss" if it were left on the shelf, unable to be commercialized or industrialized, the statement said.

To ensure the value of academic patents, better-resourced universities are required to evaluate the technological importance and commercial viability of each invention before a patent application is filed. The university can either conduct the evaluation itself or seek external input, according to the official document detailing the new measures.

"Invention evaluation is a common practice at world-class universities," China Intellectual Property News quoted Chen Boqiang, secretary-general of the Beijing University Technology Transfer Alliance, as saying.

"Introducing the procedure to Chinese universities will help ensure a focus on quality from the beginning of the patenting process," Chen said.

To aid the movement of patents from academia to industry, the government will help better-resourced universities establish IP management offices that are adequately staffed and funded or improve upon existing ones.

It also encourages university-industry cooperation to give universities access to external IP management expertise and legal and financial services, the document says.

Researchers are required to promptly disclose inventions to the university and the university is required to put in place clear policies about how the revenue generated by a piece of IP will be shared between itself and the inventor.

The document also stipulates that without the permission of the university, researchers are not allowed to start a business to capitalize on publicly funded research results.

This is pertinent considering that some university teachers have established companies that "fly under the radar" to commercialize service inventions, according to several heads of technology management with Beijing-based universities, China Intellectual Property News reported.

The emphasis on value and commercialization is also reflected in how academics will be evaluated and rewarded.

The document stipulates that the number of patents applied for and granted will no longer be recognized in recruitment processes, performance appraisals and in giving out grants, scholarships or professional titles. Technology transfer, on the other hand, will be assigned more weight in the evaluation.

Universities are also asked to stop offering financial rewards for filing patent applications. Financial incentives for patents granted should also be slashed and removed in a phased manner.

Inventors will be rewarded with a bigger cut of the revenue generated by commercialization, according to the document.

In addition to rules and procedures, the document gives equal attention to the development of professionals specializing in IP management and technology transfer.

The government will help universities launch courses and majors in IP management and technology transfer. Universities are also encouraged to work with outside technology managers, who are "the key to the success of technology transfer models adopted by foreign universities," CEO of Beijing-based Moqiu Technology Huang Weicai told China Intellectual Property News.

Some of the top universities in China have taken steps to enhance their IP commercialization capabilities.

Peking University, for example, has set up a "patent transfer fund" to support invention evaluation and recommend IP agencies, Liu Hui, deputy director of the Beijing Science and Technology Commission, told China Intellectual Property News.

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