Research projects funded by FAPESP that generate patents now have a new space for public access: the intellectual property page of the FAPESP Virtual Library (BV), which went live in early August 2016. The database was established to increase the scientific and economic impact of research conducted at universities, research centers and businesses, and contains 913 items as of late July 2016: 749 patent applications submitted to the National Institute for Industrial Property (INPI), the federal government entity responsible for examining and awarding trademarks and patents in Brazil; 97 patents closed, rejected or abandoned; and 67 patents granted. Of the total, 21 applications are being examined or have already been approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
“This is a showcase to disseminate the findings of FAPESP-funded research,” says attorney Patrícia Pereira Tedeschi, technical advisor to the FAPESP Office of the Scientific Director. Tedeschi began assembling the database in 2010 with information from the INPI and USPTO online databases and reports on research projects supported by FAPESP. She expects the database to expand quickly as researchers that were not included in the initial survey submit patents that their projects generate.
A patent ensures the right to exclusivity for the commercial use of an invention. As the BV page explains, the “intellectual property guarantee is the first step in ensuring that the investment in research becomes new products and processes.” The next step is to identify an institution or company that can turn the invention into a commercial product and generate financial return for the inventors and patent holders.
The discovery cycle, from discovery at a university or research center to a product that actually meets the needs of a consumer market has already been completed several times. In 2003 physicist Vladimir Jesus Trava Airoldi, a researcher at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and founder of Clorovale Diamantes of São José dos Campos, wrote FAPESP a check for R$4,150.45. This was the first return in the form of a royalty from a patent funded by the Foundation. From studies conducted at public research centers, Clorovale developed and began producing dental burs with tips of artificial diamonds for dental treatments (see Pesquisa FAPESP nº 87). From 2003 to 2015, patent use increased, and in 2015 it generated roughly R$130,000 for the Foundation, which receives variable compensation based on the investment and research project mechanism, up to 33% of profits from sales or amounts received by institutions that have innovation centers.
FAPESP has 49 patent applications in the BV patent database: 34 have already been closed, 12 are being examined and three are currently active. FAPESP leads with 388 applications, followed by the University of São Paulo (USP) with 335, and the University of Campinas (Unicamp) with 317. In most cases FAPESP is a joint patent holder with 35 universities, including institutions in six other states (Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraná), not to mention the Federal District and four other countries (the United States, Switzerland, Italy and Poland). This reflects collaboration among experts from various institutions in addition to the state of São Paulo. The database also includes applications from 27 companies, 23 research institutes, 22 individual researchers and eight foundations.
The new patent database complements equivalent databases at universities and research centers and facilitates research in various forms, including easy access to INPI pages with a detailed description of the patent and its history. The patent database is an initiative of the FAPESP Technology Patents and Licensing Center (NUPLITEC), established in 2000, four years after the current Patent Act became law, to support the protection of intellectual property and licensing of rights to the results of FAPESP-funded research. Until that time, Tedeschi recalls, most universities had no budget, employees or established procedures to work adequately in this area. The situation changed in 2004 once the Innovation Act was passed, requiring research centers to establish their technology innovation centers and attend to their potential patents.
In 2011 FAPESP revised its policy of supporting intellectual property and began avoiding ownership, but retained the option to obtain benefits generated by patents from grants and scholarships funded by the Foundation. As a result, negotiations for licenses, conducted by the institution where the research took place, become more flexible. Today the Foundation is working in this area using three mechanisms under the Program for the Support of Intellectual Property (PAPI). The first two support the protection of intellectual property generated by FAPESP projects requested by individual researchers with assistance from their institutions or the innovation center at their institutions. The third finances internships abroad for teams from technology innovation centers to improve their work practices. For FAPESP’s intellectual property policy, visit the PAPI home page.