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ORPC Helps Inventors Protect Their Rights

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
January 24, 2007

Don Troop with mini ozone sensor
© Kristi Donahue, EOS, Don Troop with mini ozone sensor

In 1980, when the Bayh-Dole Act was passed, UNH joined other universities around the country in gaining title to intellectual property rights for research outcomes funded with federal money.

The law said universities, and other qualifying groups, could keep those rights but they had a responsibility to commercialize them for the public good and make sure they didn’t “sit on the shelf.”

The Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization does just that.

How? By helping faculty and staff members turn their ideas and creations--their intellectual property--into marketable products through such measures as patents, which protect things; copyrights, which protect the expression of ideas, and trademarks.

“UNH faculty, staff and students all have intellectual property rights. Our job is to help identify relative work and to help protect and persevere those rights,” says ORPC licensing manager Maria Emanuel.

Several UNH inventors have developed technologies that are available for licensing, including Project 54, the “smart” police car technology that allows officers to, among other things, turn on their lights, sirens, radars, video cameras and radios with voice commands. Other innovations include a method for identifying fast-growing fish and an apparatus and method for delivering radiation treatment more precisely to tumors, thus minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

“There is a lot of research and development going on here. Someone might come up with the technology but not know how to take it to the next step; how to move their idea forward without losing their rights to it,” says Emanuel. “A company might say, ‘thanks for telling us about this but we’re not interested’ and then take the idea and run with it.”

Emanuel hopes that increased awareness of intellectual property rights will prevent that from happening. ORPC’s role is to help inventors assess whether their ideas are both patentable and marketable and if so, determine which is the best licensing partner: an existing company interested in adding the new technology to its product line, or perhaps a spin-out company started by the UNH inventor.

Emanuel cites Troop Instrumentation LLC as an example.

In his work as a research project engineer in the Climate Change Research Center, Donald Troop came up with a mini ozone sensor, used to gather air quality data. He has since launched Troop Instrumentation to manufacture and distribute air pollution and climate monitoring and controlling devices. He has licensed the technology for the Mini-O3 Sensor and expects to license more devices he’s developing at UNH.

When UNH licenses a technology, it charges royalty fees, and distributes 30 percent to the inventor, 30 percent to the college or department and 30 percent to the Vice President for Research office, bringing money into the research programs. Ten percent of the royalty fee is paid to ORPC, and a portion of that goes toward such costs as patent expenses, which Emanuel says run in the ``tens of thousands.” The average cost of a patent is $15,000.

“It can be a little daunting for the inventor,” Emanuel says, adding UNH pays the upfront costs but looks to be reimbursed in the licensing process. “We want them to know what we can provide. A busy researcher might not take the time to understand what they have to lose—or gain.”

In November, revisions to the 1990 intellectual property policy were ratified, including such critical topics as student rights relating to IP and the commercialization of university-owned IP. The policy is posted at www.orpc.unh.edu/uipp.html.

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