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NIU among 144 signees of letter to Congress

February 25, 2015

U.S. CapitolAs Congress considers legislation related to the U.S. patent system, American universities and associated technology transfer foundations and organizations stand ready to work together to address problematic patent litigation abuses. Northern Illinois University, along with 143 other colleges and universities, signed a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reconsider legislation that would “hinder the flow of groundbreaking advances from university research to the private sector, which catalyzes economic growth, creates jobs, and improves the lives of all Americans.”

Two such proposals – mandatory fee-shifting and involuntary joinder – are especially troubling to the university community because they would make the legitimate defense of patent rights excessively risky and thus weaken the university technology transfer process, which is an essential part of our country’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Research universities like NIU are opposed to mandatory fee-shifting and involuntary joinder provisions contained in House Resolution 9 and believe such measures add effort and expense to the technology transfer process, weakening an essential part of our country’s innovation ecosystem,” says NIU Director of Federal Relations Anna Quider.

The letter states: “The continuing success of university technology transfer depends on a robust patent system that provides strong protection for inventions, enabling universities to license these patented inventions to private sector enterprises to create socially beneficial products and services. U.S. universities, along with related nonprofit research institutions, conduct over half of the basic research in the United States, approximately 60 percent of which is federally funded.”

Despite spending cuts and sequestration in recent years, Illinois’ universities are capturing record levels of funding for research in science and engineering, conducting a record $2.4 billion in science and engineering research and development in 2013, according to the latest Illinois Innovation Index analysis of National Science Foundation data.

NIU and the other universities are working to ensure any legislative changes are “targeted, measured and carefully calibrated to safeguard this nation’s global leadership in innovation.”