EFF recently launched Reclaim Invention, a project to encourage universities to manage their patent portfolios in a way that maximizes the public benefit. Specifically, we’ve urged universities to sign a Public Interest Patent Pledge not to sell or exclusively license patents to patent assertion entities, also known as patent trolls. EFF is proud to partner with Creative Commons, Engine, Fight for the Future, Knowledge Ecology International, and Public Knowledge on this initiative.
As part of our project, we’ve also released draft state legislation that we hope state legislators can adapt to promote pro-innovation technology transfer at state universities. Our legislative language has two components. First, it requires university technology transfer offices to adopt a policy committing them to manage patent assets in the public interest. University policy should include:
- researching the past practices of potential patent buyers or licensees;
- prioritizing technology transfer that develops inventions and scales their potential user base;
- endeavoring to nurture startups that will create new jobs, products, and services;
- fostering agreements and relationships that include the sharing of know-how and practical experience to maximize the value of the assignment or license of the corresponding patents.
The second part of the legislation voids any agreement to license or transfer a patent to a patent assertion entity.
The policies advanced by the proposed legislation are similar to principles that many in the university sector have already advocated for (like the Nine Points to Consider promoted by the Association of University Technology Managers). The view that universities should promote true technology transfer, and not trolling, is not radical. Despite general agreement on these points, universities sometimes sell to patent assertion entities like mega-troll Intellectual Ventures or dietary supplement troll ThermoLife. Legislation that carefully codifies the public-interest mission of university technology transfer would ensure that trolls don’t get hold of public universities’ patents.
Getting tech transfer legislation introduced in 50 states would be an enormous job, but that’s where you come in. If you’d like to see your state legislators fight patent trolls, then use our form to contact your state lawmakers.
Both in urging universities to change their patenting policies and in passing reforms on the state legislative level, we can’t replace local, on-the-ground activism. Reclaim Invention relies on our network of local activists in the Electronic Frontier Alliance and beyond. If you would like to help convince your college to sign the pledge or work with local lawmakers to introduce legislation, please contact us.