Implications of Alternative Intellectual Property Rights Management Approaches

DOE maintains a vigorous technology transfer program as a key element of its IP activities. As part of the management strategy for administering its Bioenergy Centers, DOE has issued a set of Principles to guide IP practices for new findings emanating from the Centers. The Bioenergy Centers, in turn, have responded with Management Plans for implementing the Principles. The Principles and Plans are innovative, far-reaching and represent a departure from past practices. If successful, DOE might consider them for other similar partnered research ventures. For these reasons, and because they are “zero- based,” that is, instituted from the initiation of the Bioenergy Centers Program, the Plans offer a unique opportunity to document how they are implemented, how the incentives they embody influence research partners and potential licensees, and the extent to which they could be adjusted for application to other situations.

However, DOE’s changing policy for managing intellectual property rights is taking place within an evolving national patenting landscape that may hold special implications for the development of science and technology. Just as advances in gene sequencing technologies led to incentives for genomic researchers to patents human expressed tag sequences a practice that threatened a potential anticommons, wherein large numbers of patents could reduce access to the human genome, trends in patenting may expand the challenges in seeking patent protection and licensing patents that are issued. In general, the breadth of patentable subject matter is increasing and the scope of individual patents is decreasing, both of which lead to larger numbers of patents. Patent licensing strategies are also changing with patent holders and patent seekers each taking into account opportunities to exploit bargaining advantages. Common property rights organizations, such as patent pools or cross-licensing arrangements are being widely explored. This overall phenomenon is sometimes described as a patent thicket.

To ensure the broadest possible applicability for our work we are therefore both gathering data and considering concepts to generalize our findings. Over time we intend to explore patenting issues across other DOE R&D institutions in an effort to ensure the best available information is used both in policy making and in technology transfer programs.

Intellectual Property (IP) Goals: management policies and practices
  • Ensure protection of information
  • Facilitate dissemination of information
  • Promote technology transfer
  • Provide incentives to coordinate behavior
  • IP Systems: Incorporate IP law and procedures, and DOE instructions
  • Contribute to the efficient management of collaborative research centers
  • Revise revenue distribution patterns
  • Protect the interests of diverse partners
  • DOE Research Centers
    (click on image to enlarge)
    Implications and their Metrics: Metrics record impacts of IP structure and choices
  • Disclosures
  • Patents
  • License terms
  • Revenues
  • Revenue distributions
  • Research Center Choices: Given DOE instructions, R&D centers must make choices
  • Which disclosures to patent?
  • How to distribute IP ownership?
  • Who patents products?
  • Who licenses?
  • How to encourage ventures?
  • Theory used to examine behavioral choices and the consequences of those choices in the context of alternative, evolving IP management strategies within research consortia (a) identifies which data to collect and (b) facilitate the interpretation of data. This seed money investigation determined that existing theory has not been, and cannot readily be, applied to these contexts. Therefore, additional theoretical studies are needed. 

    For more information, contact:
    David Bjornstadd (, 865-574-5152)