University licensing and the flow of scientific knowledge

University licensing and the flow of scientific knowledge

July 1, 2023

As university involvement in technology transfer and entrepreneurship has increased, concerns over the patenting and licensing of scientific discoveries have grown. The paper examines the effect that the licensing of academic patents has on journal citations to academic publications covering the same scientific research.

Neil C Thompson, Arvids A Ziedonis, and David C Mowery analyze data on invention disclosures, patents, and licenses from the University of California, a leading U.S. academic patenter and licensor, between 1997 and 2007, and also develop a novel “inventor–based” maximum–likelihood matching technique to automate and generalize Murray’s (2002) “patent–paper pairs” methodology. Using this methodology to identify the scientific publications associated with University of California patents and licenses.

Based on a "difference–in–differences" analysis, they find that within our sample of patented academic discoveries, citations to licensed patent–linked publications are higher in the three years after the license, although this difference is not statistically significant. But when dis-aggregating the sample into patented discoveries that are likely to be used as "research tools" by other researchers (based on the presence of material transfer agreements (MTAs) that cover them) and patented discoveries not covered by MTAs, we find that citations to publications linked to the licensed patents in the latter subset to be not only higher for publications linked to licensed patents than for unlicensed patents but that this difference is statistically significant.

In contrast, licensing of patented discoveries that are also research tools is associated with a reduction in citations to papers linked to these research advances, raising the possibility that licensing may restrict the flow of inputs to “follow–on” scientific research

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