R&D successes mired by IP rights battles – Chris Horn

5 May 2010

Software entrepreneur Dr Chris Horn called for the introduction of an intellectual property protocol as outlined by the Innovation Taskforce to prevent the problems that arise over intellectual property (IP) created by Irish academic institutions.

Horn, the founder and former CEO of Iona Technologies, yesterday warned at a conference in Limerick of the many problems that may arise over the right to intellectual property as a result of collaboration on research and innovation.

Horn was speaking at Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre which is headquartered at the University of Limerick. He was addressing the CSET (Centre for Science Engineering and Technology) Commercialisation Forum organised by Lero.

In his address, Horn said the Innovation Taskforce included, amongst its many deliberations, the recommendation (nr 6.4) of the establishment of a national “intellectual property protocol”.

What an ‘intellectual property protocol’ would do

This, Horn said, would ensure uniform treatment of commercially valuable academic results nationwide, and reduce the inadvertent risks to which the academic sector may be exposing itself. It would also streamline licensing by companies and entrepreneurs, since an identical licensing philosophy would be adopted by all higher education institutes in the State.

“Innovation is a risky undertaking, and perhaps in more ways than sometimes we may realise. Innovation is nevertheless absolutely critical for the Irish economy, and we thus must be professionally alert to risks inherent in the ventures we undertake – not least in publicly funded scientific research,” he said.

Horn said that publicly funded research is a pillar of a smart economy. There is an understandable expectation that such research will usually provide a direct return for the taxpayer by way of royalties. Yet research may fail.

He cited the example of Stanford and MIT, amongst the top scientific universities in the world and which also produce commercially valuable intellectual property,

Yet at the Stanford Office of Technology Licensing in 2008 only 2pc of its annual US$3.8bn operating budget of the university came from licence royalties.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Dr Chris Horn

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years