Dark Intellectual Property – Not a Big Issue

Following from recent discussion of “Dark Social”, analysts have begun to talk about Dark Intellectual Property, referring to IP that is sitting on the shelf, unused, unexploited and possibly orphaned forever.  Analysts point out that there are vast treasure troves of Dark IP within universities and in government funded research institutions.  I’ll argue as well, that large companies often turn a blind eye to “dark research or rogue research” that may take place within a department’s budgetary envelope.

Some believe that universities have difficulty bringing Dark IP projects to commercialization, even if those universities have commercialization offices to do so.  These offices, some think, are too bureaucratic, too underfunded and too overwhelmed with volume to do an adequate job.  This may be so, but only some academics have a desire to be entrepreneurs, and many are satisfied with patent filings to show on their resumes.  Are innovative ideas lost this way – probably!

On the other hand, as a mitigating factor, funding sources will always urge the universities to exploit to the best of their abilities, the research that comes from funded projects.

We have less concern about the future of rogue projects in a commercial business.  Most modern, progressive companies have figured out a process to deal with these types of issues – a good example is the Emerging Business Opportunities (EBO) Program at IBM.

Both funding agencies and universities could set aside funds to mimic the IBM EBO process, or some derivative of it, and thus bring Dark IP to the light of day.


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