Purdue eases way for faculty to file for patents

Purdue University is making it easier for faculty to privately file patents for innovation that the university's research arm chooses not to pursue.

Dan Hasler, president of the Purdue Research Foundation, which manages intellectual property developed at the university, told the Journal & Courier  that returning the rights to the technology to faculty will spur innovation at Purdue and keep good ideas from gathering dust.

"If they feel strongly about it, they can file the patent themselves," Hasler said. "Our ability to pick these things is not perfect. I'm willing to look silly if the product actually makes it to market, has a company formed around it and employs Hoosiers … as opposed to sitting it on a shelf and letting it rot and never knowing."

The move is the latest step in Purdue's attempt to make research commercialization easier. University President Mitch Daniels announced the appointment of Hasler, former Indiana Secretary of Commerce and a former vice president for global marketing at Eli Lilly and Co., in February, saying Purdue wasn't fully realizing the potential of its researchers and students. He said Hasler's appointment would create an environment that encourages invention and entrepreneurism and that he wanted to turn Purdue into "a fountain of new goods, services, companies and jobs."

Daniels announced Tuesday the university decided to allow "automatic reconveyance" for faculty members who file patent applications for technology that the foundation deems either not patentable or without market value. The policy also will cut the time it takes the university to decide whether to file a patent from 12 months to six months, Daniels said.

The former governor conceded he's changed his mind on what he believes Purdue's priority should be when it comes to patents.

"At the bottom of the list comes dollars to Purdue University. I used to think that was the primary objective. I don't think that anymore," he said.

He wants to focus on making the university the most attractive environment for inventors.

About 45 Purdue faculty and staff members, who were honored Wednesday at the 2013 Purdue Inventors Recognition Reception at Kurz Purdue Technology Center, were issued patents for their discoveries last fiscal year. That's a decrease from the nearly 60 researchers who were recognized for earning patents during the 2011 fiscal year.

Elizabeth Hart-Wells, assistant vice president and director of the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, said the decrease in the number of researchers who received patents during 2012 may be due to the 12-month lag time between the patent application filing and the awarding of a patent.

"That wave will make its way," Hart-Wells said.

The number of patent applications, on the other hand, has gone up by about 40 percent within the past few years, Hart-Wells said.

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