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Patents and academic research: a state of the art

Nicolas van Zeebroeck (ULB, Solvay Business School, Centre Emile Bernheim, Brussels, Belgium)
Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie (European Patent Office, ULB, Solvay Business School, DULBEA and CEPR, London. UK)
Dominique Guellec (OECD – DSTI, Paris, France)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to look at the sharp increase in academic patenting over the past 20 years and to raise important issues regarding the generation and diffusion of academic knowledge. Three key questions may be raised in this respect: What is behind the surge in academic patenting? Does patenting affect the quality and quantity of universities' scientific output? Does the patent system limit the freedom to perform academic research? The present paper seeks to summarize the existing literature on these issues.


The paper's approach is a review of the recent literature on academic patenting and research use of patented inventions, complemented with critical viewpoints and new data on academic patenting in Europe.


The evidence suggests that academic patenting has only limited effects on the direction, pace and quality of research. A virtuous cycle seems to characterise the patent‐publication relationship. Secondly, scientific anti‐commons show very little effects on academic researchers so far, limited to a few countries with weak or no research exemption regulations. In summary, the evidence leads the authors to conclude that the benefits of academic patenting on research exceed their potential negative effects.


The paper offers a critical overview of the available evidence on the links between patents and academic research, which may be useful both for individuals unfamiliar with this issue or for those experienced in the field who are looking for a state of the art discussion on recent debates.



van Zeebroeck, N., van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie, B. and Guellec, D. (2008), "Patents and academic research: a state of the art", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 246-263.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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