In the world of intellectual property, often the way to enact licensing deals is through litigation. However, litigation comes with significant risks and costs and studies show that there is one group in particular that is more hesitant than others to enforce patents through litigation. That is, universities. Since many universities across the United States produce cutting-edge research, intellectual property is very important to them but they often have to consider other issues before pursuing litigation to protect their IP. Some of those issues include whether a licensing dispute will harm valuable research partnerships between the university and corporate sponsors, if the university will have the support of professors and individual colleges at the university, and will litigation deter future research partners from working with the university.
Litigation financing can be used by universities to help in this type of scenario. If the research is a narrowly focused on a particular topic, single-case financing may be an appropriate option. For single-case financing the funder would work with the university and its litigation counsel to finance the attorney’s fees and other costs through trial and appeal, including any Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings. This is a great option for the university because like all litigation financing it is no cost unless there is a successful outcome and it shifts the risk from the university to the financier.
However, for universities that have research crossing over far-ranging fields the single-case option may not make sense. Universities like this may want to purse a multi-faceted licensing approach for the overall licensing program to be successful. This is even more risk and money and commitment for the university. But that is where litigation financing can come in and provide significant capital for such a process, which would allow the university to spread its risk and facilitate a broader resolution.
While universities may not at first thought be clients that one would think litigation finance could benefit, this post suggests that they are. From small claims to much larger diverse group of claims, litigation finance will help shift the risk from the university to an entity with diversified risk across uncorrelated claimants. This allows the university to focus on their main prerogatives educating students and continuing their extensive research initiatives.
Topics: litigation finance, alternative litigation finance, third-party funding, universities, intellectual property, patent law
Works Cited: Katharine Wolanyk & Emily Hostage, Using Legal Finance to Unlock University IP Assets, Burford Capital (July 17, 2018).