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Shirking, Sharing Risk, and Shelving: The Role of University License Contracts

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  • Marie Thursby
  • Jerry Thursby
  • Emmanuel Dechenaux

Abstract

In this paper, we develop a theoretical model of university licensing to explain why university license contracts often include payment types that differ from the fixed fees and royalties typically examined by economists. Our findings suggest that milestone payments and annual payments are common because moral hazard, risk sharing, and adverse selection all play a role when embryonic inventions are licensed. Milestones address inventor moral hazard without the inefficiency inherent in royalties. The potential for a licensee to shelve inventions is an adverse selection problem which can be addressed by annual fees if shelving is unintentional, but may require an upfront fee if the firm licenses an invention with the intention to shelve it. Whether the licensing contract prevents shelving depends in part on the university credibly threatening to take the license back from a shelving firm. This supports the rationale for Bayh-Dole march-in rights but also shows the need for the exercise of these rights can be obviated by contracts.

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  • Marie Thursby & Jerry Thursby & Emmanuel Dechenaux, 2005. "Shirking, Sharing Risk, and Shelving: The Role of University License Contracts," NBER Working Papers 11128, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11128
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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