NC State has long been a leader in patenting its own inventions. Lately, however, the University is attracting more interest from companies looking to transfer technology patents that no longer fit with corporate research needs. The donor companies receive tax deductions, while the University and its researchers get the opportunity to further develop and license the patent to produce a royalty stream.
Textiles professors Drs. Brent Smith and Harold Freeman, for example, are using the TEEGAFIX technology donated last fall by consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) to produce better, more environmentally safe textile dyes. With the technology, they are able to modify the chemical structures of currently used fiber-reactive dyes so more of the color bonds with fibers and less winds up in wastewater. Traditionally, dye plants have used salt to enhance the bonding of dye to fibers, but discharging salt into North Carolina rivers can create as many environmental problems as the unbound dyes. "TEEGAFIX offers another branch to the fork in the road of environmental research--another direction that appears to have a lot of promise," Smith says.
NC State began attracting donated intellectual property a few years ago and now typically receives about a half dozen gifts a year, says Ed Hand, NC State's director of corporate and foundation relations. TEEGAFIX is the fourth technology P&G has donated since 2000. "We don't go out looking for it," Hand says, noting that companies often give patents to NC State because they already sponsor the research of certain professors or believe the University's strength in fields like textiles and paper products offers the best chance to move a technology forward.
Before accepting a donation, the Office of Technology Transfer works with Hand and other members of the Development Office to determine whether there's any commercial potential in a technology and to find a faculty member interested in working with it. "We don't want to take it on if we don't have someone who can move it forward," Hand says. "It has no commercial value to us until it is licensed by the University, although it has significant value to our research enterprise. We're hopeful that one day we'll see commercial success as well."
Companies often give patents to NC State because they already sponsor research or believe the University's strengths offer the best chance to move a technology forward.
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