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As noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “public research”, meaning research primarily funded with public money and carried out by universities and public research institutions, plays an extremely important role in innovation systems by ensuring the provision of new knowledge.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) notes the importance of public research combined with IP. To assist in information and development of IP policies, WIPO provides free access to a database with manuals and worldwide agreements.
One example of searchable patent policies is LU Innovation from Lund University in Sweden. Founded in 1666, Lund University is one of the most innovative universities in Sweden. Examples of inventions discovered by the university or in cooperation with the university during its history include:
1916: “The M series”—new instruments of significance for X-ray spectroscopy, created by the 1924 Nobel Prize recipient Siegbahn; 1944: Tetrahedron (Tetra Pak)—a four-sided pyramid shape packaging for foods, created by Wallenberg, patent protected by Rausing; 1957: Carlsson (Nobel Prize recipient in 2000), who discovered dopamine as a powerful signal substance in the brain, leading to the first drug to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; 1967: Nicorette—the first nicotine medicine, created by professor Lundgren and Lichtneckert; 1987: Turbohaler—an inhaler for the dosage and inhalation of asthma medicine, developed by Wetterlin; 1991: Researchers developed the health-promoting bacteria culture Lactobacillus plantarum 299V, leading to the ProViva range of fruit drinks and other products ; 2012: Industrial designer Mahdjoubi’s degree project resulted in a shower that reduces water consumption by 90%, used at the NASA space programme.
A hub for inventors
Lund University is aware of the importance of protecting new technology by patent applications and has created a special hub for innovation and commercialisation: LU Innovation, called “the link between academia and business”.
At www.innovation.lu.se, inventors can find important information on how to protect new ideas and avoid problems. For example, a section reads:
“Are you publishing your findings? It might seem … an odd question, but in order to be patented the invention must be new in relation to what is generally available on the day the patent application is submitted. This means that patents cannot be granted for published research findings. Remember to contact us before publishing!”
"Founded in 1666, Lund University is one of the most innovative universities in Sweden."
LU Innovation also assists in novelty searches, patent application guidelines, and will help cover costs of drawing up and registering a first patent application. This work resulted in 18 patent applications (12 of which are Patent Cooperation Treaty applications based on earlier priority) in 2016.
Lund University is member of the Association of Swedish Higher Education, which provides “Principles for intellectual property management in research agreements”. Paragraph 2 states that:
“Agreements may not restrict the right to free publication of the university’s research findings ... However, a certain delay may be reasonable in some cases. Publication of results should be delayed by a maximum of one month to allow other parties to the agreement to ensure that the publication does not contain information that is agreed to be secret and with a further three months to allow for intellectual property protection.”
The Swedish government is aware of the problems relating to official research work in combination with protection of IP rights.
“Sweden will be one of the world’s leading research and innovation countries, and then Swedish universities and colleges must be attractive partners for companies and international players in innovation. Therefore, we need to review whether protection for research results needs to be strengthened,” said Helene Hellmark Knutsson, minister of higher education and research, in a press release of March 27, 2017, announcing that she has instructed special investigator Sigurd Heuman to carry out a review of the protection of research results.
The investigator will examine whether there should be increased opportunities for confidentiality of research results until publication or the results that are protected by IP, and analyse whether there is a need to further protect information about business relationships, inventions or research results submitted in an application for research funding to an authority. A report is expected by December 29, 2017.
In the meantime, work at Swedish universities is going on as usual, with the hope of resulting in new scientific discoveries, business cooperations, Nobel prizes and strong patent protection.
Maria Zamkova is CEO of Fenix Legal. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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