Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Technology transfer breakfast

Had breakfast with an SBS student who’s doing a summer project on technology and IP transfer. It was a good time: I find the SBS students interesting to talk to, both because they’re working on cool stuff, and because they’re useful informants about the local culture of the business school.

One of the things we talked about was the degree to which you could think about intellectual property as something akin to a manufactured object, or something that’s inherently social. If it’s the first, the challenge people who want to facilitate intellectual property have to deal with involve reducing transaction costs and asymmetries, because IP is something that you could move as easily as an iPod moves from the factory floor in China to your door. If it’s the second, though, and if the transfer of intellectual property is more a process of social negotiation in which creators and users of IP create a common understanding around pieces of IP, then you need to design a very different system: one that facilitates relationships between creators and users, rather than facilitates transactions between anonymous buyers and sellers.

I’ve finished packing, and now I’m going to go check out, walk around for a while, then take the bus from Oxford to Heathrow Terminal 5. I’m going to leave ont he early side, to make sure I get there with plenty of time; then I figure if I have a long wait, i can wander around T5 and take pictures, while my clothing disappears into some strange black hole.

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting topic. This is one I ruminated on when I was at SBS some five years back. My summer project involved working with the Royal Institution of Great Britain and trying to facilitate a transformation from part-time educational museum and working research institute to full-time tech transfer hub for UK universities. The project got me interested in the idea of IP securitization, which had already been tried with so-called Bowie Bonds where entertainment royalties back the coupon payments of bonds issued to finance film and music productions. However, it was an untested idea in the realm of patents and a potential good way to finance product R&D for promising IP tied up in big firms and not likely to be available to VCs to commercialize. The rub is that commercializable tech generally is developed in-house and does not provide a steady stream of royalties from the IP. In this scenario IP is generally used as a buffer against competitive encroachment on innovation. But hope springs eternal that someone will find a way to monetize all of these intangibles lying on corporate balance sheets.

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