Jensen, P. and Webster, E. (2006). “Bright ideas needed to harness creativity”, Australian Financial Review, 10th August, p.63. Reprinted in Australian R&D Review as “The problem with patents”, September, p.11.
Recent legal disputes – such as the ongoing battle between the CSIRO and computer superpowers Microsoft, Intel and Dell over WiFi technology – highlight a major problem with the use of patents by public research institutions. Such institutions are supposed to promote the diffusion of knowledge they create by publishing in academic journals and presenting research at conferences. At the same time, however, universities and CSIRO are under increasing pressure to generate revenue from their output through the creation of intellectual property (IP) rights. This opens up the possibility of entering the murky world of legal dispute resolution since IP owners must actively enforce their rights in order to curb the unauthorized use of their technology. The cost of such litigation may eventually run into tens of millions of dollars.