Aug 26, 2007

Labs power up packs of intellectual property

ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor

Four nuclear weapons laboratories agreed Friday to pool intellectual properties created by their scientists and engineers. The Intellectual Property Bundling Agreement (IPBA) is intended to speed up commercialization of lab technologies.

Technology Ventures Corporation of Albuquerque developed the IPBA under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy. TVC mentors startups and helps commercial ideas at the laboratories find investors. TVC chairman Sherman McCorkle hosted the signing in Albuquerque.

Clay Sell, Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., attended the event, along with the representatives of the four weapons laboratories managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration: LANL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Nevada Test Site.

In a press release Friday, Domenici said the new agreement should significantly increase the success rate for transferring technology.

"Bundling intellectual property rights for ideas generated by multiple labs will make them more readily available for development into the products and services," he said. "That will ultimately create jobs and strengthen our economic base."

Intellectual property refers specifically to patents and inventions, but also includes other kinds of creations and discoveries, like software, drawings and know-how.

Duncan McBranch, who heads the Tech Transfer Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the bundling idea is a theme that has been going around universities and industries for a while now.

"There is more value in intellectual overlap than in any one thing alone," he said

McBranch said progress has been made in identifying what the clusters are.

"Ken Freese, in the intellectual property management office within my divisions, has developed a strong set of tools to analyze the patent portfolios and characterize them by what they are similar to," he said.

Among technology clusters that seemed promising, McBranch mentioned biosecurity, new materials, and data and image analysis.

In the biosecurity area, he said, there were a number of patents at LANL related to DNA detection and rapid analysis, and that Lawrence Livermore has also been working in that area.

"Each of us has 10-20 patents," he said, some of which could be available as a bundle.

Intellectual property management has become an increasingly important strategic concern for companies working in the technological arena.


Anonymous said...

Can a value be given to this so-called intellectual property? Universities like Stanford and MIT will disclose their income from patent licensing. It seems, of course, inappropriate for LANL to conceal these numbers in the name of secrecy. Particularly since the fes come from businesses.
How much a year does LANL get from licensing the patents that have been the subject of so much self praise? There is a sizable staff writing patents and looking for customers. Do the fees pay for their salaries? To use a popular phrase, "Show me the beef!"

Anonymous said...

Oh goodie. More work for the band of drooling idiots that we call TT division.

Anonymous said...

It's all show. None of this effort pays for itself. It just gives LANL management and the local politicians something to crow about and hope than no one ask any tough questions. It would be interesting to know how much the technology spin-off office at LANL costs the lab in terms of operating costs. I suspect it is significant.

Are there any ideas that came out of LANL that have resulted in significant economic growth? I'm not aware of any. I believe our sister lab, SNL, does a better job in this area.

Anonymous said...

We have, as I was told when I tried to get a patent, exactly one and a half patent attorneys. If you have plenty of program money you can contract for patent writing outside, or DOE itself might file for you, as has happened when the lab couldn't afford it. Good luck getting a patent around here if you don't file yourself.

Anonymous said...

10:52 PM - me too. I couldn't even get the damn lawyer in Legal to call me back after writing e-mails and leaving several phone messages. We couldn't wait and had to publish. We (me/LANL/LANS) all lost out!

Anonymous said...

A half, eh? Based on the performance of the IP and TT folks, I can bet which half that is.

Eric said...

There are ideas from LANL that have yielded significant economic growth.

I have a list of all of them for the last 30 years.

The biggest was radio frequency identification.

The simplest summary of these stories is:

1. Think of something good.
2. Leave the Lab.
3. Make the invention
4. Learn how to commercialize the invention.

In Science (I think) in 1993, there was a quote from a Livermore employee. It went something like this.

"Tech Transfer? It is 100% successful here. Everyone who invents a useful technology leaves the lab."