Introduction: Academic medical innovation has yielded technologies that directly benefit patients. As state and federal budgets shrink, universities are extracting additional revenue by limiting royalty streams for innovations by academic clinicians. Previous research reveals that 147 board-certified neurosurgeons hold 582 patents. In this study, we examine patent and royalty policies at academic institutions with and without neurosurgical training programs.
Methods: The Association of American Medical Colleges recognizes 128 medical schools in the United States, 98 of which have accredited neurosurgical training programs. We examined the bylaws and technology transfer policies of all 128 institutions to evaluate (a) ownership of patent rights and (b) division of royalty payments between innovators and universities.
Results: 42 medical centers with neurosurgical training programs explicitly discuss royalties in their policies; the most frequently occurring division (7 institutions) provides 50% of royalty revenues to the inventor (after patent filing fees and administrative overhead are deducted). Royalty divisions are highly variable, with some institutions capping payments (e.g. $150K/year) and others paying innovators based upon the royalty received (e.g.: <$20K: 40%, next $20K: 35%, >$40K: 30%). The 26 medical centers without neurosurgical training programs that explicitly state royalty divisions are similarly variable (most frequently occurring: 5 institutions: 50%; 5 institutions: 40%). Most medical centers retain ownership of patent rights, with innovators serving as co-authors. In <20 institutions, division of patent ownership can be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Conclusions: Despite public perceptions of profiteering by medical innovators, academic licensing agreements modestly compensate innovators with a percentage of returns.
Patient Care: (1) Encouraging innovation among neurosurgeons leads to benefits for patient care as devices and treatments are developed
(2) By educating neurosurgeons about patent rights and the technology transfer policies of universities, we hope to empower neurosurgeons to feel that they have ownership of their ideas/inventions, and thereby encourage more entrpreneurship/innovation
Learning Objectives: By the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to: (1) Have a basic understanding of patent rights (2) Understand what royalty streams are (3) Recognize the relationship between neurosurgeon innovators and academic medical centers/universities (4) Appreciate the role of neurosurgeons as innovators
References: (1) Babu MA, Heary RF, Nahed BV. (In submission). Device Innovation in Neurosurgery: Controversy, Learning, and Future Directions.
(2) Shufflebarger, HL. Surgeons, Societies, and Companies: Ethics and Legalities. Spine: 15 September 2001 - Volume 26 - Issue 18 - pp 1947-1949