Mexico: The Importance Of Patenting For Higher Learning Institutions And Its Benefits.

Recently the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published a list of the fifty companies which filed the highest number of patents for 2014. Not surprisingly, the list was headed by companies in the United States (28.6% of total filings), Japan (19.7%) and China (11.9%). However, it should be highlighted that among the top 50 spots was the placement of a higher learning institution, which is The University of California System, with a total of 413 applications filed, placing it at spot 47 of the above mentioned list.

The World Intellectual Property Organization also included a list geared at the universities which filed the highest number of PCT applications in the last year. As can be easily assumed, the University of California System headed this list, and the nine spots below it were taken by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (234), the University of Texas System (154), Harvard University (147), Johns Hopkins University (135), Stanford University (113), Columbia University (112), The California Institute of Technology (103), University of Pennsylvania (94) and Soul National University (92). The predominance of the universities in the United States is to be noted.

Nobody doubts the academic level of the afore mentioned universities, they all place highly in the "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014" which is published by the Jiao Tong University of Shanghai in China. The University of California placed fourth place, being passed up by Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The UNAM (The National Autonomous University of Mexico) on its end, was ranked in the 201-300 spot and is the only Mexican university to appear on the list.

Undeniably, the academic level of the universities in the United States is an important factor in the developing of patents; however another determining factor is the association of the Higher Learning Institutions with the university-business-government system which has been regulated by the Bayh-Dole Act since 1980. The University of California is a clear example of the effect which said system has had on the significant increase in the number of patents registered by the Higher Learning Institutions in the United States since the enactment of said Act.

Percentage of Patents granted to research at Universities. The growth of granted patents after the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 is to be noted.

The Bayh-Dole Act regulates transference of technology and knowledge created at the universities with public funding towards industry; in such a way that the general public may benefit from the usefulness of products while stimulating the economy by means of manufacturing and the sale of said products. It is estimated that between the years 1996-2007 the economy in the United States benefitted by $187 billion dollars derived from the licensing agreements from university developed research. Additionally the mobilizing of knowledge and technology form the universities towards industry has fostered the creation of start-up companies (which are businesses which commercialize new technologies).

Some examples of inventions which were originated in United States universities through the use of federal public funds are the following:

  • Cisplatin and Carboplatin therapeutic agents, Michigan State University.
  • Calcium Supplement, Citracal®, Medical Center of the University of Texas Southwest.
  • Neupogen®, a drug used along with chemotherapy, Cancer Institute at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
  • Processes for inserting DNA into eukaryotic cells to produce protein material, Columbia University.
  • Recombinant DNA Technology, Stanford University and The University of California.
  • Trusopt® Eye drops used in glaucoma, University of Florida.

If critics of the Bayh-Dole Act question its benefits, presenting arguments regarding among other things, the high price of patented technologies and products which limit the public's access to them and the tendency of research centers to change basic research (and its inherent benefits) towards applied research, particularly in those fields of high interest to industry, etc; it is undeniable that said Act has been the determinant in the University-Industry-Government association for the last three decades, which led to its being named in 2002 by The Economist as "possibly the most inspired piece of legislation promulgated in America during this half century...."

In the case of Mexico, what happens with the scientific task? And how is society benefitting from publicly funded research? If the Science and Technology Law establishes that the government bodies with public research centers may determine the operation rules of the same (Article 50, chapter V) and may decide on intellectual property issues arising during research projects (Articles 51 and 56, chapter XI), the number of patents filed by the Institutions of Higher learning still remains low.

According to a press release issued by the IMPI (Mexican Patent Office) last July for the period of 2009 and almost half of 2014, the Mexican Patent Office received 81,733 patent applications, and of this number between 89-93% of the filed applications corresponded to businesses, among 5-6% belong to independent inventors and only between 3-4% belong to Research Universities and Institutes.

The mentioned press release also highlighted that the Monterrey Institute of Technology filed 283 patent applications in Mexico, the UNAM (The National Autonomous University of Mexico) 233, the Autonomous Benemita University of Puebla 98, the National Polytechnic Institute 90, the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon 72 and the Autonomous Metropolitan University 51.

When comparing these results with the number of scientific articles published by the universities in Mexico an enormous difference is perceived. In 2011, the Scientific and Technologic Consultation Forum, AC, published its evaluation of the Mexican Scientific Production for the period of years 2003-2009. The UNAM was placed in first place with 23,132 published articles (in indexed magazines for each referenced institution), second place was won by CINVESTAV with 8,041 articles and third place was granted to the National Polytechnic Institute with 6,646 publications. The Report Performance in Science and Innovation for G20 by Thompson Reuters, highlighted that Mexican scientific production grew 65 percent in the last decade, with over 6 thousand publications in 2003 to surpassing 10 thousand publications in 2012.

Said results allow to undeniable affirmi that the Universities and Research Centers in Mexico are working on different research projects and generating knowledge which later is poured into scientific disclosures. However, the disparity between scientific publications and the number of patent applications filed, allows to reasonably assume, that the knowledge and technologies produced are not being duly protected by means of a patent and that consequently, they do not reach their commercial potential nor do they create important benefits to the national economy.

It is fundamental that the Institutions of Higher Learning promote a protection culture for their intellectual property among their scientific community, and that, on the other hand, effective cooperation associations for businesses are formed, given that the Institutions of Higher Learning do not possess the infrastructure to commercialize their technologies and in parallel manner, the businesses do not have the time nor human resources and materials available which research demands, particularly in the health, biotechnology, drug development fields etc.

This association is also a valuable resource for investment in Institutions of Higher Learning, which the government undertakes with public funding so that it in turn, favors the national economy by means of manufacture and commercialization of new products useful to the population, and at the same time, promote the creation of new businesses and better employment sources.

Footnotes

1: http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/pressroom/en/documents/pr_2015_774_annexes.pdf#page=1
http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/pressroom/en/documents/pr_2015_774_annexes.pdf#page=3

2: Sistema Universitario y no un solo campus.

3 Mowery, David and Sampat, Bhaven. 2004. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and University-Industry Technology Transfer: A Model for Other OECD Governments?

4. Patents, Profits and the American People – The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980.

5. http://www.impi.gob.mx/QuienesSomos/COMUNICADOSPRENSA/IMPI_026_2014.pdf

6. http://www.foroconsultivo.org.mx/libros_editados/ranking_por_institucion_2011.pdf

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