Va. Tech affiliate boosts staffing to find new inventions, more royalties

BLACKSBURG Va.
A nonprofit Virginia Tech affiliate that helps patent,
protect and market faculty and student inventions is boosting its staffing, and
officials hope that will increase the number of licensed inventions and
generate more revenue.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties has been in existence
for 22 years, but largely because of an employee shortage and heavy paperwork,
its licensing associates have had a hard time looking for a Virginia Tech
researcher’s next potential moneymaker or finding companies willing to
commercialize inventions.

But Mark Coburn, VTIP’s executive vice president, said that
in the past 15 months, the office has brought in several new employees in hopes
of doubling royalty income in the next few years.

With funding from Virginia Tech, the office has hired four
new licensing associates and plans to hire another in the fall, bringing VTIP
up to 10 employees, doubling its staffing from a year ago.

VTIP likely will receive university money for two to three
more years, but after that it is supposed to be self-sustaining. It will take
about $4 million in royalty revenue a year or twice the amount received in 2006
for VTIP to sustain itself, Coburn estimated.

Based in the Virginia
Tech Corporate Research
Center, VTIP acts largely as a
matchmaker between Virginia Tech inventors and companies that may be interested
in commercializing and selling their inventions. If they find a match and the
invention makes money, VTIP receives royalties, recovers its expenses and
distributes the remainder to the inventor, the inventor’s department and the
university.

Sales of library software, a bacteria test kit and varieties
of wheat and peanut plants helped bring roughly $2 million a year in royalties
through VTIP in the past six years.

But identifying more “big hits” single inventions
that reap millions of dollars in royalties is important. The office has more
than 200 active licenses but only about 60 are generating revenue, much of it
simply passing through the office on its way to a technology’s inventor, the
inventor’s department and the university.

“We have several medium-sized hits and lots of smaller
hits,” Coburn said, noting that medium hits bring lifetime revenue in the
hundreds of thousands of dollars while smaller hits bring less than $100,000 in
revenue.

Coburn said that historically, Virginia Tech’s 40
percent cut of royalties is reinvested in VTIP, but the aim is for those funds
eventually to be used for university research and education.


– Associated Press



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