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Senate hearing suggests moderate approach to U.S. patent law reforms


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

Representatives of small business and universities reached a significant consensus at a recent Senate hearing to identify ways to reform the patent system without hindering innovation or harming small business owners.

Reform proposals are targeted at abusive behavior within the patent system, notably the activities of so-called patent trolls, though some businesses are concerned that the reforms would lump well-meaning companies in with the bad actors and make it difficult for them to enforce their intellectual property.

David Winwood, president-elect of the Association of Technology Managers and chief business development officer at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, stated at the hearing that the passage of H.R. 9, known as the Innovation Act, “stifles a university’s ability to enforce patent rights.” According to Winwood, the bill marks an overzealous pursuit of patent trolls that could have the unintended consequence of putting the U.S. patent system out of reach for universities and small businesses alike.

Robert Schmidt, co-chair of the Small Business Technology Council, noted that the U.S. Federal Reserve has found that patents are the top indicator of a region’s wealth and that 37% of American engineers and scientists are employed by small businesses. Schmidt made his opinion on H.R. 9 clear when he referred to it as the “Ending the American Dream Act.”

Rachel King, founder and CEO of pharmaceutical company GlycoMimetics, points to a lesser known type of abuse that the America Invents Act has allowed through inter-partes review (IPR) and other post-grant proceedings it created. King argued that because so many patents challenged through IPR are invalidated, a hedge fund could short sell a biotech company’s stock and file an IPR to make money when the stock plunges because investors are so wary of IPR challenges. Though King did not cite an example, there are reports that this kind of abuse has been happening. “I think that should be criminal,” King said.

A major consensus was reached on the subject of the “innovation tax,” or the funneling of money away from the USPTO as a result of sequestration measures. When prompted by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), all members of the witness panel agreed that Congress should put a law in place mandating that user fee resources remain in the patent office. “Congress, we need to act on this, no one disagrees with this,” said Peters.

However, the same level of consensus couldn’t be found on the issue of which piece of legislation reform was best for the U.S. patent system. The majority favored the STRONG Patents Act, which they said would create the kind of framework necessary for handling abusive behaviors without affecting the legitimate rights of patent owners. Still, Tim Molino of the Software Alliance argued in favor of the Innovation Act, saying it was too early to deem certain post-grant review activities stemming from that act as abusive.

Overall, it seems the Senate Small Business Committee is united in its aim to curb abusive behaviors within the patent system without doing any unintentional harm to innovators. Gene Quinn and Steve Brachmann of IP Watchdog suggest that “if there will be patent reform in this Congress, it will be more modest and at least attempt at being innovator friendly.”

Source: IP Watchdog

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SBIR/STTR Funding: Strategies for Submitting a Winning Application


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs can be critical and significant sources of funding for university innovations and start-ups. And with nearly $2 billion in funding being awarded each year, university researchers, start-up founders and TTO staff must understand how to ensure their applications stand apart from the herd.

That starts with knowing what key content to include in your application and understanding the review process. Knowing the critical factors that lead to success can make a huge difference in determining whether you get funded — and ultimately in whether your research or early-stage venture ever makes it to the commercial marketplace.

That’s why Technology Transfer Tactics’ Distance Learning Division has scheduled this can’t-miss webinar: SBIR/STTR Funding: Strategies for Submitting a Winning Application. Join SBIR/STTR funding consultant and former NIH scientific review officer Geoffrey White, PhD, on April 14th, when he’ll address the key challenges facing SBIR/STTR applicants and offer expert guidance for ensuring a successful application.

For complete program details and to register, CLICK HERE >>

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Ohio State IP policy revamp gets slammed by faculty


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

Ohio State University faculty members are fighting a new proposed IP policy that they fear would give the school a claim to profits from books, articles, software and other works they create. The proposal, which is still an early draft, is meant as an update to existing IP policies that have been unchanged for 14 years. Colleges across the country are having similar debates about ownership of scholarly works and research, especially amid the spread of valuable online courses. continue reading »

Amending University IP Ownership Policies to Boost Disclosures and Corporate Interest ~ During this program our experts will discuss shifts in their IP ownership policies and how to adapt them in your university. Click here for details >>>

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How to assess whether a faculty member is cut out to lead a start-up


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

In a recent blog post, Gerard Eldering of InnovateTech Ventures, noted a trend toward university start-ups being run by faculty CEOs – a move he finds problematic. While acknowledging that some successes have occurred with faculty at the start-up helm, “the odds of a faculty CEO with no business experience building a strong company are probably rather low,” he comments. continue reading »

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Angels pair with universities to create low-risk ‘Startup Factory’ for IP


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

A group of angel investors has been so successful in helping develop companies out of IP at the University of New Mexico that they are launching a second “Startup Factory” to find and nurture potentially marketable technologies out of the state’s research universities and national labs.

New Mexico Angels is a group of about 70 investors who pool their resources to invest in early stage companies, explains the group’s president John Chavez. He also is managing director of the New Mexico Startup Factory, a funding vehicle that allows investors to put their money to work on more than one developing company rather than putting it all in one IP project.

The first Startup Factory, launched in 2012, created seven new companies in New Mexico, and all but one continues to operate successfully. Formation of the Startup Factory was prompted by concerns among the Angels’ management board in 2009 about valuations and deal flow, Chavez explains. The Angels decided to actively reach out to university and national lab partners to identify promising technology and consider the investment possibilities. The Startup Factory allowed investors to spread their money around, while producing a larger pool of investment for start-ups.

For the second Startup Factory, the Angels plan to include research developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and New Mexico State University (NMSU), as well as UNM and Sandia National Lab.

The investors focus on finding projects that can be developed quickly with seed funding and little business incubation, Chavez says. For the universities involved, the close ties with the investment group means a ready source of funding for a selection of their most promising technologies.

New Mexico Startup Factory II will act as a second holding company to seed the commercial development of laboratory inventions from UNM and the three other institutions. The pre-money valuation of these companies is $40,000, representing the initial cost to the Startup Factory, which pays outside companies to stand the companies up.

The Startup Factories were created to allow investment in projects with low pre-money value while creating their deal flow and diversifying the Angels’ portfolio, Chavez says. The factories also allow IP development without management fees or carry fees, and the investors take pride in supporting local entrepreneurs. “It is a lot of work, but this is the New Mexico Angels helping New Mexico by creating new fundable companies,” Chavez says. A detailed article on the Startup Factory appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and see the full article, and gain access to the publication’s vast archive of success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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NC State start-up develops method to mass produce nanofibers


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) are developing a method to produce unprecedented amounts of polymer nanofibers, which have potential applications in filtration, batteries and cell scaffolding. continue reading »

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A counter-intuitive definition of “disruptive” technology


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

In his recent post for Entrepreneur, start-up expert Martin Zwilling urges founders to rethink the concept of a “disruptive” technology. “Every entrepreneur with a new technology tells me that his innovation will be industry-disrupting,” Zwilling writes. “Yet truly disruptive innovations, like the smartphone from Apple and the rise of the Internet, are very rare, and are generally unpredicted.” continue reading »

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Best practices for TTOs in one convenient resource


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

coverThe Technology Transfer Tactics BEST PRACTICES COMPENDIUM is a must-have 492-page resource that’s chock-full of how-to strategies and proven best practices covering a comprehensive range of the most critical challenges facing tech transfer professionals. The BEST PRACTICES COMPENDIUM offers a cost-effective way to learn from successful tactics and programs developed and implemented by colleagues at tech transfer offices across the country.

With this comprehensive reference you’ll boost your program’s results with unprecedented access to proven best practices implemented by dozens of top TTOs. This new resource is packed with detailed tips, tactics, ideas, expert guidance, and nuts and bolts solutions in 11 critical technology transfer areas: marketing, start-ups, faculty outreach, operations and staffing, portfolio management, contracting and licensing, funding, partnerships, policies & procedures, patent and legal issues, and economic development.

For details, a complete table of contents, and to order, CLICK HERE >>

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UC San Diego researchers enable engineered genes to self-propagate


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have enabled an engineered gene to spread on its own throughout an organism, perhaps even an entire species. The news raised both hopes for important gene-based technologies and concern over the ethical and safety ramifications of the advance. continue reading »

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NTU Singapore start-up joins with Chinese economic group to commercialize water treatment technology


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

NanoSun, a start-up from Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the China Commerce Group for International Economic Cooperation (CCIEC), a majority state-owned enterprise based in Beijing, have formed a S$4.3 million joint venture to commercialize NanoSun’s water membrane technology.

The venture is expected to tap into China’s billion-dollar industrial wastewater treatment market by deploying NanoSun’s technology, which uses a self-cleaning, 3D-printed membrane water filter to clean industrial wastewater that conventional membranes find hard to treat. The patented system is also suitable for water reclamation, an essential part of the Chinese government’s strategy to encourage industries to reduce water usage by recycling.

As a start, the partners have taken orders to treat one million liters of wastewater from the textile industry by August of this year. Within the next 3 to 4 years, the venture is expected to treat about 100 million liters of wastewater. There are also plans to market the technology internationally in the near future.

According to Darren Sun, associate professor at NTU Singapore and cofounder of NanoSun, the membrane filter “will be an affordable but effective technology that can turn polluted and industrial wastewater into a source of clean water, without the generation of secondary waste which other systems have.”

Chen Yu, president of CCIEC, comments, “There is an increasing demand for the industry to treat wastewater better and faster. I believe that applying NanoSun’s technology at a large scale will increase the efficiency of water treatment and reduce the impact of environmental pollution. That is why we would like to cooperate with NanoSun to start this transformation.”

Source: EurekAlert!

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Why founders should avoid valuation madness


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

In his recent blog post, entrepreneur and VC Alex Iskold urges start-ups not to drive up their valuations when they have little to no traction or revenue to start with. “Most founders equate valuation with the score,” Iskold writes. “They ignore other terms like control of the board, or option pool, or how debt converts.” continue reading »

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Air Force partners with Texas Research Institute division to commercialize novel aircraft coating


By David Schwartz
Published: March 25th, 2015

The U.S. Air Force has partnered with Proteckt, a division of the Texas Research Institute (TRI), to develop an innovative, high-temperature, abrasion-resistant coating product that could make Air Force aircraft more reliable and easier to maintain. continue reading »

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