Beyond the Ivory Tower : A Comparison of Patent Rights Regimes in Sweden and Germany

Sammanfattning: The purpose of this dissertation is to assess the impact of patent rights regulation in universities in Sweden and Germany. Two empirical studies were conducted in order to answer the research question What are the incentive effects of patent rights regimes in the university?. A qualitative study based on interviews with representatives from the public support infrastructure in both countries assessed the role of technology transfer offices and other intermediaries in both countries. The process of patenting and commercial exploitation in Sweden and Germany was presented in stylised models. A quantitative study based on a survey of researchers in Sweden and Germany was carried out in order to find out the factors that impact on the decision to apply for patents. The quantitative results together with the qualitative findings from the interview study allow us to draw a number of conclusions. First of all, the incentive effects of patent rights regimes in universities in Sweden and Germany are rather small. Despite two diametrically opposed patent rights regimes – Sweden with researcher-ownership and Germany with universityownership – the results indicate that patenting is rather unaffected by it. Researchers in both countries are similarly patent-active. Thus, the patent rights regime has only limited explanatory power. Other factors seem to have a stronger impact on the incentives to patent. The infrastructure for patenting and commercialisation has an important role. Researchers that received support weremore inclined to get their results patented and the results from the interview study indicate that it is mainly a well-workinginfrastructure that increases incentives to patent and not the patent rights regime alone. When it comes to the public infrastructurefor patenting and commercial exploitation, the role of technology transfer offices etc. and the type of support is different in bothcountries. Swedish public infrastructure provides primarily support with regard to patenting and financial support aiming at theestablishment and development of spin-offs. German public infrastructure focuses primarily on patenting and licensing. Thepatent rights regime has limited power to explain patenting. Structural factors of research organisations and personal characteristics of the researcher are more important. Structural factors such as research orientation (applied vs. basic) can explain patenting behaviour. Researchers that have previous experience with patenting show a greater propensity to patent. The survey results about hindrances to patenting have shown that a lot of researchers did not apply because they lacked knowledge, regarded the patenting process to be too time-consuming or too costly. This illustrates the importance of experience and infrastructure. Since the university wants the researcher to accomplish all three missions (research, teaching and transfer), it has to induce the researchers to do so. Nevertheless, the analysis of the reward system has shown that this is rarely the case. The empirical results in Sweden and Germany show that salary either directly or indirectly is determined by publications and the extent to which researchers acquire external funding. In addition to career concerns and salary, researchers have the possibility to earn a bonus. This bonus is related to the third mission (knowledge transfer) of universities and can take different forms. It can include honoraria for books or lectures, income from consulting assignments, or income from patents. It is therefore important to acknowledge that there is a broad range of means to transfer knowledge and technology. Consulting seems particularly important. The bonus associated with consulting seems to be less risky than the potential bonus of patenting. The maximum bonus with regard to patents is determined by the patent rights regime. In Sweden, the university teachers can receive the entire bonus, whereas this share is limited to 30% in Germany. The chances that a bonus materialises are uncertain. The basic role of technology transfer offices and other actors that support patenting and commercialisation is to reduce the risks associated with patenting. If the risks can be reduced the chances that a bonus will materialise are larger, which increases the incentives of researchers to exert effort with regard to patenting.