University News

New patent liaison to focus on engineering

By
Staff Writer
Monday, February 27, 2012

The University will be adding a new position in the Technology Ventures Office to assist engineering faculty members in identifying research suitable for patents and then guide them through the patenting process. The position was added as part of the University’s recently approved budget for fiscal year 2013.

The office will function to facilitate communication between faculty members who “create intellectual property” and the University, which owns the patents to their research, said Clyde Briant, vice president for research.

The office also helps faculty members market their discoveries to companies that may be interested in licensing them, Briant said. “That is a lot of on-the-ground work, and we only had two people to serve the whole university and realized that wasn’t sufficient.”

This addition will help the University invest more time in developing patents in the School of Engineering, Briant said, adding that the school is a “hotbed of intellectual property.” The new position will allow the office to work more closely and be better acquainted with the engineering faculty members, so they do not overlook potentially patentable research, Briant said.

This office plays a crucial role because “some faculty members may not realize what they’re sitting on,” Briant said.

Lawrence Larson, dean of engineering, also stressed the importance of having an intermediary to guide faculty members through the patenting process.

“Professors are motivated by intellectual curiosity and scientific ambition,” Larson said, so thinking about the commercial appeal of their ideas is “not something they naturally do.” Because of this, Larson said he believes the new position will be greatly beneficial to the School of Engineering and the University as a whole. Since the engineering faculty is involved in a vast array of scientific fields, Larson said, it was important to help their ideas get as much exposure as possible.

Larson specifically highlighted the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology, environmental technology and informational technology as the “big four” research areas the University will emphasize, as there are “lots and lots of inventions coming out of these areas.”

Though this new position will focus on engineering, the office will continue to serve as a patenting liaison with other sciences, Briant said. He added that Katherine Gordon, the office’s managing director, will focus on biotechnology, and Assistant Director Leonard Katzman will work mostly with computer science and other physical sciences. The new position will enable Gordon and Katzman to devote more time to their specific fields, Briant said, which will in turn help the University capture influential research early on and facilitate the patenting process.

Though the office anticipates the general role and impact the new position will have, its more specific functions are still being developed, Gordon said, adding that more information will be available in a few months.

— With additional reporting by Mark Raymond