Institutional Change and Academic Patenting: French Universities and the Innovation Act of the 1999
Recent empirical work in the field of university-industry technology transfer has stressed the importance of IPR-related reforms and university patenting has major forces behind the success of US high-tech industry. European policy-makers have been tempted to explain the poorer technological performance of their countries with the lower propensity of their academic institutions to get engaged in patenting and commercializing their research results. As a consequence, a number of measures have been taken to promote academic awareness of IPRs, as part of more comprehensive policies in favour of academic commercialization and entrepreneurship. This paper explores university patenting, and the related policies, in France. We provide evidence that university patenting in that countries has been underestimated by policy-makers’ perceptions: French academic scientists are in fact responsible for no less than 3% of patents by French inventors at the European Patent Office. However, only 10% of academic-invented patents are owned by domestic universities, with the remainder assigned both to firms and to Public Research Organizations (PROs). We then explore the impact of the Innovation Act, passed in France in 1999. We find that the Act has significantly increased the likelihood an academic patent to be assigned to a university rather than to a business company. We also find, that the opening of a technology transfer office in a university appears to have a stronger and more significant impact than the Act on the decision of universities to retain IPRs over their scientists’ discoveries.
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