Corbel, P.; Chomienne, H. and Bonhomme, Y. « Vers un élargissement des modes d’interaction entre sphères publique et privée ? L’exemple de l’utilisation stratégique des brevets », 16th international colloquium of « Politiques et Management Public », Florence, March 2007 published in Politiques et Management Public, Vol. 25, No 4, December 2007, pp. 45-62
Introduction:Issues relating to intellectual property rights and, more generally, the exploitation of research are at the forefront of the news. On the one hand, major political debates are taking place around issues that are essentially linked to patents: the problem of patents on living organisms (sequencing of the human genome), patents on software (fears about the future of the free software community) or the ratification of the London agreements (putting an end to the compulsory use of the national language in the application of the European patent by each country). On the other hand, a series of reports have highlighted certain weaknesses in the system for developing public research in France (Levy/Jouyet report on the intangible economy, Guillaume/Cytermann report on the development of research). The aim of this article is to contribute to these debates by attempting to integrate new elements from research carried out on the actual use of patents in private organisations.
Overall, the underlying rationale behind public policy on patents seems to be strictly linked to the primary function of patents: to protect innovation from imitation. This restrictive concept could explain certain forms of resistance in public research institutions to extending the use of patents to the detriment of making knowledge considered a public good available to the community. However, numerous studies converge to show that patents are a relatively ineffective means of protection against imitation but have other roles of a strategic nature: as a tool for deterrence, for negotiating access to competitors' technologies, for influencing industrial standards, etc. Although there are a few exceptions, these roles seem to receive little attention in the economic and political debates surrounding these issues. It, therefore, seems essential to us to study the extent to which these different roles could be integrated into the strategic management of patents in public organisations, particularly in the critical area of health. From then on, patents could really be considered as a management tool that complements traditional modes of public action in the service of public policies in the field of research and innovation.
Our objective is, therefore, to conduct qualitative research into the use of patents by public research bodies in France (universities, CNRS, CEA, INSERM, INRA, INRIA, etc.), and we present the preliminary results here. The central question of this research is to determine how public research organisations use patents to promote their activities. Do they use open licenses to impose standards, negotiate access to technologies protected by private companies, participate in patent pools and so on? If so, is this a deliberate and coherent strategy or are they isolated initiatives? What contribution would the "strategic use" of patents make to the State's industrial policy? Do the management systems of these organisations encourage the desired behaviour? The data consists of both official documents and reports relating to the missions and activities of industrial property development bodies within public research organisations and interviews with the players involved.
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