News Articles Main Menu

Florida Universities Building Large Patent Portfolios


Graph of patent grants to Florida universities from 2008 to 2018

Between 2008 and 2018 Florida universities have dramatically expanded their patent holdings.

TAMPA, FLORIDA.   Four patent-prolific universities in Florida have generated nearly 3,000 U.S. patents for their institutions in the last 10 years.  This does not count foreign patents on the same technology.   The University of South Florida produced 978 of these patents closely followed by the University of Florida with 919.   The University of Central Florida and The Florida State University were granted impressive patent counts of 646 and 332 respectively.   
Under the Bayh-Dole Act, federal research grants to universities after December 12, 1980 permitted a recipient of the funding to elect to pursue ownership in the invention.   Prior to the Act, the U.S. government had amassed 28,000 patents but less than five percent (5%) were commercially licensed.   For a university to take ownership in the invention, it must:
  • Include a patent rights clause in contracts;
  • Elect in writing whether or not to retain ownership;
  • Report subject inventions to the agency granting funding;
  • Educate faculty and researchers to diligently report new inventions; and
  • Mandate certain employees to protect the government's interest in subject inventions.
Without patent protection, private companies cannot justify investing in new technologies.  Patents do not stifle the adoption of new technologies but enable them to be commercialized in the first place.   The federal funding granted to universities for research is supported by taxpayers.  If that research is not commercialized, the taxpayers realize less of a return on that investment.   In a 2010 interview with Senator Bayh, he noted for every dollar spent on research, it took 9-10 dollars in investment capital to commercialize the research (ref).   Between 1996 and 2012 university patent licensing contributed $836 billion to U.S. gross domestic output and supported three (3) million jobs (ref).
Getting a patent can be challenging.  It must be novel, useful and non-obvious.   It undergoes an adversarial examination at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and many patent applications are not granted.   Therefore, obtaining a patent is an achievement.   It is recognition that the technology claimed by the patent did not exist before nor would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art.   The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) is the preeiminent organization to recognize and encourage innovation in the academic environment.  The NAI was founded at the University of South Florida in 2010 and comprises over 4,000 individual members spanning 250 academic institutions worldwide.  
We strongly encourage companies looking for technical solutions to reach out the technology transfer offices at universities. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, a company might get a jump start over their competition by licensing university-generated inventions.  
Methodology for patent counts: Searching assignment by year on the USPTO patent advanced search interface.  Sample query: AN/"University of South Florida" and ISD/$/$/2018.  Universities and other organizations may calculate patent grants differently.   

© 1999- 2019 Smith and Hopen, P.A.  SMITH & HOPEN® and logo are federally registered trademarks.  Legal