ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Sandia National Laboratories is building a portfolio of intellectual property (IP) that can be licensed by businesses in as little as an hour.
"This is the simplest process possible," said Sandia business development specialist Bob Westervelt, who helped create the ready-to-sign licensing program that businesses can access on the Sandia website. "The language is clear and easy to understand. We can say, 'Here's the license, here are the terms. Once you and Sandia have signed it, you can start using the intellectual property.'"
Sandia's goal is to get more of the national labs' innovations into the hands of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Sandia has about 1,300 patents available for licensing. Westervelt said the licensing group, which works with companies of all sizes, noticed that smaller businesses often are daunted by the number of patents to search through and the complex licensing process.
Recently, the group came up with the idea of creating a standard license for certain IP it identifies as being desirable. "We look through the IP for technologies we're surprised aren't being used, that need more visibility and that still have a lot of time left on the patent," Westervelt said.
Small businesses can lack the time or manpower to sift through 1,300 patents to see whether Sandia has something that might help them be more successful. "If we give them a shorter list and simplify the process, they're more likely to notice good opportunities," Westervelt said.
The ready-to-sign license is uncomplicated, with simplified language and pared-down terms, conditions and reporting requirements. And it costs less. "We are offering relatively small up-front fees, in the $3,000 range, and low-percentage royalties," Westervelt said. "We don't want to impose a financial burden on a small business that needs cash flow."
So far eight patents qualify for the program, from a drive system for industrial applications that require high torque and low rpm to a compact spectrometer that can detect trace amounts of gases such as carbon monoxide and methane to a vehicle barrier that holds up to a powerful impact. More ready-to-sign licenses are in the pipeline, and Westervelt said the group hopes to assemble a portfolio of about 50.
"We want a manageable number that can have the most impact," he said. "These are all technologies that no one has licensed in areas where small businesses might be able to get a foothold. A small company could take any of these licenses and run with it."
The licenses are nonexclusive, so any number of companies can make use of a technology. "It's not first-come first-served for the IP," Westervelt said. "If five companies are interested in a technology, all five can license it."
One has been signed so far. Advance Plumbing of Albuquerque licensed the Labs' Hedgehog water-purification technology. Company President Vincent Sanchez said he signed on because of the simplicity of the licensing process.
"This was really easy to get into," he said. "I would not have looked at it if finding the technology and doing the agreement was a big process requiring certification and lots of financials and other reporting. I'm not in a position to do all that. If it's easy, I can say, 'Why not? Let's take a look.'"
Pete Atherton, senior manager of Industry Partnerships at Sandia, said Sandia is always looking for better ways to transfer technology for the public good. "The ready-to-sign program is a new component of our initiative to make licensing Sandia's technology easier and faster," he said.
Ready-to-sign licenses are listed on the Sandia website at https://ip.sandia.gov/readyToSignLicenses.xhtml, with options to click on a technology for information and download a PDF file with the paperwork. "You click on one link and it downloads everything you need," Westervelt said.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.
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