The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday March 22nd

UNC Could Get Millions In New Patent Revenue

N. C. State University recently was ranked 17th out of139 national research universities in revenue from patents and licensing - the highest ranking of any N.C. university.

But UNC-Chapel Hill is now poised to improve upon its ranking of 51st.

Thanks to 35 new patents from Proctor & Gamble, the University could take in up to $100 million annually, possibly boosting its overall patent income and allowing it to surpass top-ranked schools.

These new patents have the potential to put UNC in the lead of an increasingly competitive realm of higher education.

According to the study conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers, "trademark rights can become extremely valuable assets, well worth the extra attention required for their acquisition and maintenance."

Patents secure rights to the use of new technology while licensing agreements sell the rights to use these technologies to private firms and other groups.

David Winwood, N.C. State Office of Technology Transfer director, said the university had reaped $7.76 million from 30 patents and 60 licensing agreements in 1999. Columbia University cashed in with the most revenue at $89.1 million and 212 patents.

Mark Crowell, UNC-CH director of the Office of Technology Development, said the University produced 41 patents and 70 licensing agreements in 1999 for a total revenue of $1.63 million.

Crowell said that although N.C. State came out ahead of UNC-CH in licensing revenue, income is not the sole measure of scientific achievements for either school. "Without a doubt, there is as much science here as there is there," he said. "It's not really a question of the quality of the science, but of whether the science is addressing a market need."

Accordingly, Winwood said N.C. State's focus on practical sciences did much of the university's licensing income. "Typically, what we would look at would be engineering and agricultural related technologies," Winwood said. "A lot of the activity here is in advanced materials sciences."

Winwood also said much of the revenue attributed to the 1999 licensing year actually came from patents and discoveries begun years before. "A 1999 revenue might have resulted from work that began on campus five or 10 years earlier," he said.

Winwood also emphasized the difference between the types of technology produced by the schools. "We just have different areas of specialization on the two campuses and the incomes that come out reflect that specialization," he said.

Crowell added that UNC-CH produced mainly medical technology and unlike N.C. State, UNC-CH patents often take years for FDA approval.

Crowell said that although the number of patents from universities is rising, private industry still produced a majority of patents. "Universities are not even close to getting a majority of patents, but their numbers are increasing every year."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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