This month’s Nonprofit Quarterly highlights Shobita Parthasarathy’s work in “Patents and profits in a public setting: Who should benefit financially?” The article quotes from Parthasarathy’s recent Conversation piece, “How to make sure we all benefit when nonprofits patent technologies like CRISPR.”
NPQ points out that while CRISPR, a new gene-editing technology, has the potential to be lucrative for the institution that possesses the patent, it is also an anomaly. “Companies are not interested in most of the patents universities hold,” writes the author. “At the same time, higher ed is spending millions on Technology Transfer Offices, responsible for applying for, protecting, and selling patents.”
The author expresses concern that universities experiencing significant revenue losses on technology transfer will feel increasing pressures “to reap as much as possible and sell the exclusive patent to the highest bidder.” To Parthasarathy, who is concerned about the monopolies exclusive patents create--particularly around technologies with game-changing societal benefits and costs--this practice would erode trust in nonprofit institutions.
“At a moment of spiraling drug costs and declining trust in our science and technology policy institutions,” Parthasarathy writes, institutions “must develop a more sensitive and systematic way of thinking about the public interest in their intellectual property strategies.”
- Read about Parthasarathy’s proposal for “intellectual property governance committees,” in “How to make sure we all benefit when nonprofits patent technologies like CRISPR."