Competition in the field of tissue engineering and cell therapy is intense, whether it be attracting top scientists, obtaining licenses to university-owned patents, being the first to reach market with a particular technology, obtaining coveted investment funding, or gaining the attention of larger companies with deeper pockets.
With new companies being founded every day, competition is intense among these new enterprises to obtain these coveted prizes. Meanwhile, most large medical device and pharmaceutical companies are actively monitoring developments at cell therapy and tissue engineering companies and either already have or eventually will acquire or partner with them.
Licensing a patented academic technology for further development is one way biotechnology companies can expand their intellectual portfolio. It is also a way to defend one’s turf by preventing a competitor from using that patented information. Thorough networking can work to the company’s advantage here, because it can yield insights about research progress, about who to contact for licensing discussions, and what other companies may be sniffing around for a good licensing opportunity.
If a company is considering licensing, then it should examine the quality of the patent (whether it is both broad enough and defensible), how much access the company will have to the inventors, rights to publish further research and the rights to sublicense out the work. The company must decide if the technology could form the basis for a new company or if it is an assistive technology that may broaden core strengths the company already possesses. The technology should also be examined to see how far from market an end product likely is. Of course, the details of dividing up any monetary awards must also be addressed. Licensing involves fees, which may include upfront fees, fees or royalties to be paid on a milestone or quarterly basis, and annual maintenance fees. The patent holder naturally expects value for licensing out the patent, whether that value is harvested at the beginning of the relationship or at the end.