Survey Shows Academic Intellectual Property is Growing

December 19, 2017
Post by Patricia A. Sweeney - Of Counsel

Academic research effort continues to grow according to results from the annual survey of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). The recently released survey of 195 universities, hospitals and other research institutions reflects increases in many areas of inventive efforts. The number of invention disclosures in 2016 increased 8.7% since 2012, and provisional patent application filings were up by 5.2% from 2015. The number of new patent applications gained 3.4% over 2015, and issued patents were up 5.1%. A new record was set for startups, and the survey reports 73% of the new business remained in the developer’s state. International filings continue to grow, showing a 33.6% increase in new patent applications filed outside the U.S. This is twice the number of international filings since 2012.

Economic contributions of academic inventions have grown substantially. According to AUTM, the U.S. economy benefited from academic patents and licensing to industry by a gross output of $1.3 trillion during a 20-year period. Interestingly, the report reflects that licenses to startups or small companies were 70% of licenses filed, while licenses to large entities dropped by 15% from the prior year. Of those startups, 73.4% were in the academic institution’s home state.

According to the executive summary comments accompanying the results, the survey reflects U.S. research institutions continue to invest in intellectual property and “reflects a more international approach to intellectual property.” They note that this increase is even though total research expenditures increased only 0.45%, attributing the increases in filing and outreach to the efforts of technology transfer offices of the academics.

At the same time, the summary cautions they observed a slight decrease in exclusive versus nonexclusive license agreement and in options. They comment this is possibly due to decreased “risk appetite” of licensees in the face of uncertainty of the direction of U.S. patent rights. No doubt the licensees will be closely watching the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding post grant challenges to patents.


Patricia Sweeney is an Intellectual Property Attorney in the Biotechnology/Chemical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit or contact Pat directly via email at


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