BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JUNE 5, 2000 ISSUE
BUSINESS WEEK E.BIZ -- INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Mind Melds


Dartmouth College has a vault of ideas, and it's Patti Beaulieu's job to sell them. As the assistant to the director of Dartmouth's technology transfer office, Beaulieu handles the school's intellectual property, everything from more efficient drugmaking processes to new biomedical diagnostic tools. With more than 150 new technologies, Dartmouth is poised to grab a piece of the estimated $100 billion global technology licensing market.

So late last year, Beaulieu started listing some of Dartmouth's technologies on a Web site named UVentures.com, an intellectual-property business-to-business exchange that sells technologies from universities and government laboratories. Since then, inquiries have gone up 50%, says Beaulieu. ''The Web's a pretty effective tool for showcasing what we have,'' she says.

Ideas are finding a marketplace on the Web. While the surge in litigation and patents regarding online technology is forcing a redefinition of intellectual property, the Internet is simultaneously providing a medium for the easy and rapid spread of licensable ideas. UVentures.com is one of several new e-marketplaces looking to cash in by selling intellectual property. Sites such as Yet2.com, Techex.com, and Patent & License Exchange (pl-x.com) are joining in by offering easily searchable databases of new technologies ready for the next stage of commercialization.

Universities have tried to sell intellectual property for years, but there has been no organized, efficient way to do that--only a sparse, scattered network of patent lawyers, brokers, and trade shows. According to the Association of University Technology Managers, universities spent $24 billion in 1998 on R&D, but realized only $739 million in revenue.

Sensing an opportunity, Craig Zolan launched UVentures.com in October, 1999. Today his site lists 4,000 technologies from 50 universities and research institutions. He charges 10% of the value of any transaction that closes. No deals have been completed yet, Zolan says, but UVentures has matched 30 buyers and sellers, and a few are close to licensing deals.

''We think the Internet is a remedy to a real problem for universities,'' says Zolan.

Now Corporate America wants in. On Feb. 7, Yet2.com (pronounced ''yet to come'') launched its intellectual-property exchange with 37 sponsoring companies, including Procter & Gamble, Toyota, and 3M. CEO Chris A. De Bleser got the idea while he was managing the digital imaging business at Polaroid. He was constantly searching for new technologies that Polaroid could buy. One day, De Bleser ran into Ben DuPont, who was responsible for finding new uses for technologies created at his family's company. The two formed Yet2.com and now have listings for nearly 1,000 technologies. The Web's ability to reach large numbers of potential customers may be hard to beat, laying open vaults of ideas at Dartmouth and beyond.

By Darnell Little

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