US Faculty Patenting: Inside and Outside the University

Jerry Thursby, Anne Fuller, Marie Thursby

NBER Working Paper No. 13256
Issued in July 2007
NBER Program(s):Industrial Organization, Law and Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

This paper examines the empirical anomaly that in a sample of 5811 patents on which US faculty are listed as inventors, 26% of the patents are assigned solely to firms rather than to the faculty member's university as is dictated by US university employment policies or the Bayh Dole Act. In this paper we estimate a series of probability models of assignment as a function of patent characteristics, university policy, and inventor fields in order to examine the extent to which outside assignment is nefarious or comes from legitimate activities, such as consulting. Patents assigned to firms (whether established or start-ups with inventor as principal) are less basic than those assigned to universities suggesting these patents result from faculty consulting. A higher inventor share increases the likelihood of university assignment as compared with assignment to a firm in which the inventor is a principal but it has no effect on consulting with established firms versus assignment to the university. Faculty in the physical sciences and engineering are more likely to assign their patents to established firms than those in biological sciences.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13256

Published: Thursby, Jerry & Fuller, Anne W. & Thursby, Marie, 2009. "US faculty patenting: Inside and outside the university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 14-25, February. citation courtesy of

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