Research Perception BuildingSocial Media Outreach

Crafting a Patent Communication Strategy: Tips for Universities

Universities are both large producers of intellectual property (IP) through their research activities and large consumers of IP through their instruction. Patents for inventions are one of the major IP products created by research institutes and universities. The number of patents being issued worldwide increased over the past year, and in 2021, according to Statista, reached approximately 3.4 million.

The missions of universities frequently include the economic development of their service area and country through research and the dissemination of information. One way to accomplish this is by applying for and being issued patents for new inventions and technology. In addition, universities can increase their funds by licensing patents to outside companies or by sharing in start-ups launched by their employees based on the university patent.

The opportunities for universities and other research institutes related to patents are numerous. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, universities have to attract the required attention to their research. The remainder of this article will provide some tips and examples that may help universities effectively communicate information about their patented products or technology to investors, corporates, and the general public.

Target audiences

An effective patent communication strategy involves getting the appropriate information to various targeted audiences.

  • Investors – One of the ways that universities can profit from their patents is for the patent holder or other institution employee to create a start-up to commercialize the invention. To do this, investors are needed to provide the required funding.
  • Corporate partners – Traditionally, universities license the patent information to corporate partners to commercialize, with the university receiving the license fee. For this to occur, the invention needs to be marketed to appropriate potential corporate partners.
  • General public – Universities also promote their acquired patents to the general public for the purposes of gaining prestige and attracting future students and researchers.

See also: Patents and the Intellectual Property Rights Ecosystem at Indian Universities

Communication formats

Many different communication avenues are available for universities to introduce and explain the inventions patented by their researchers. Universities should consider using more than one of channel so as to reach the greatest possible audience. Here are a few of the most commonly used formats.

  • White papers – This format can provide the detailed information needed by potential investors and corporate partners and can be published on the website as well as promoted through social media.
  • Video summaries – Videos can be effective in introducing new inventions as visually showcasing the product can create a bigger and more dramatic impression.
  • Explainer infographics/presentation decks – This format also has the advantage of being visual and can be used to effectively present quantitative information about the product.
  • Official websites – The most accessible format, information published on the university or research institute’s website will be seen by the largest audience. This format is best for reaching the general public and prospective students.

Patent communication examples

  • Patent list on website – Many universities will provide a list of their patents on their general or departmental website, frequently to attract new students.
    • As an example, the Chandigarh University Department of Civil Engineering website lists patents applied/granted to faculty and includes the patent title, faculty member(s), and a short description for each patent. Similar lists exist for other departments in the university.
  • Press releases – The public relations department of a university will often put out press releases announcing the granting of a patent to their researchers.
    • For example, a press release issued by Northeastern University announced the awarding of a South Korean patent for Autonomous Impedance Calibration on Semiconductor Devices. The press release includes a diagram of the device and a QRC code to guide the interested reader to more information.
  • News stories – Patent inventions that are of local interest or are particularly interesting are sometime covered by general news agencies. The university public relations department can facilitate this coverage.
    • For example, a Reuters story was published about a Japanese professor’s invention of a lickable television screen. Similarly, the Times of India published a story on new patents filed by Andhra University
  • University news articles – News articles can also be published on the institution’s website.
    • Examples of news stories published by universities include the NC A&T University story about a professor’s patent relating to a defense communication device and the Keene State University story about a patent for a communication device arising out of a collaboration between a college professor and a world-renowned concert pianist.
  • Blogs – Similar to university news articles, blogs can be used to announce and promote university patents.
    • Bennett University published a blog announcing the granting of a patent to the university for a mechanized programmed plating apparatus for distributing microbial suspension. The invention has been described as “an advanced automated instrument that has been designed and implemented for microbial plating of samples, applicable in Microbiology/Biotechnology.” This blog was used to promote the university program.
  • In-person events – Some institutions will use conferences, exhibitions, and trade shows to introduce and promote their patented inventions to potential partners and investors.
    • For example, Keio University conducts events throughout the year to showcase their research. One such event is the Open Research Forum. As stated on the event website, “This forum introduces the current status and future planning of research projects at the Keio Research Institute at SFC to business, government and other public offices, municipalities and academia.” Another example is the Keio Tech-Mall event, which includes exhibitions, demonstrations, and symposiums.
  • Setting up university technology commercialization departments or partnering with intellectual property transfer companies – These organizations often serve as intermediaries between the university researcher and potential partner companies or investors.
    • Stanford University Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) – The OTL serves as a conduit between the college inventor and industry.  “Through marketing, OTL works with the inventors to prepare a non-confidential abstract that is made available through OTL’s website and sent directly to targeted companies.”
    • Japan Technology Group –  This technology-based intellectual property transfer company facilitates communication and collaboration between university researchers and industry.

With the increasing number of patents being granted and the decreasing government funding, utilizing patents can be an effective way for universities to expand partnerships with industry, open up new funding avenues, and increase university prestige and enrollment. Creating an effective communication plan for promoting these patents is a good first step to accomplishing these positive outcomes.

Jennifer Ulz

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