New patent law will benefit U-M inventors

September 16, 2011
Bernie DeGroat

ANN ARBOR—President Obama’s signing of the America Invents Act—the first major overhaul of U.S. patent law in 60 years—will help University of Michigan scientists as the patent system will be more predictable and efficient, say U-M officials.

“University research is at the core of our nation’s competitiveness,” said Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at Michigan. “This legislation clarifies and simplifies the process by which many of the most promising ideas arising in academia are transferred to the marketplace. It also provides for the opening of the first satellite office in Detroit, the heart of a region that manufactures products for America and the world.”

Obama planned to sign the bill today at a high school in Virginia.

Kenneth Nisbet, executive director of U-M Tech Transfer, says the university is awarded an average of 80 patents per year and more than 300 new discoveries are generated at U-M every year.

“Patents are essential to the successful commercialization of the majority of these discoveries, enabling our licensees to make the market investments necessary for success,” he said. “Having an effective patent system is essential to the university tech transfer process, a process that delivers economic benefits and enhances our quality of life.

“The America Invents Act promises to modernize our patent system and increase the efficiency of the patenting approval process. These transactional advantages should enhance the University of Michigan’s capacity to contribute to the economic vitality of our region and our nation.”

U-M has a rich tradition in invention and innovation, and has long played a leading role in converting ideas into new products to help expand the economy and create jobs. U-M’s major initiatives, which can be found at its Innovation Economy website (, include:

  • U-M Tech Transfer ( creates more than 90 agreements with new and existing companies and an average of nine high-quality new startups annually, placing it within the top 10 of all universities in the nation in spinoff activity and technology licensing.
  • U-M Venture Center (, part of U-M Tech Transfer, is the central hub for U-M to access technology, expertise, resources and connections to create new startup ventures based on U-M technology. It leverages relationships with some 250 premier venture capital firms and angel groups. Earlier this year, it launched a Venture Accelerator that already has attracted 10 startups.
  • TechArb ( is a business accelerator for student entrepreneurs, managed by the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business. In its first full year of operation (2010), TechArb supported 20 student companies that raised $1.45 million in venture/angel financing and generated more than $2 million in revenue.
  • University Research Corridor ( was created in 2007 as an alliance of U-M, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. The URC was formed to leverage the assets of Michigan’s three research universities to accelerate the state’s economic transformation. The URC produces an annual economic impact report on emerging sectors of promise with potential for great job growth, including manufacturing and information technology.
  • U-M Business Engagement Center ( serves as the front door to businesses seeking to identify and access U-M resources, including research discoveries, new technology, high-tech facilities, student and alumni talent and more.
  • Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies ( at the Michigan Ross School of Business has granted more than $2.3 million to student startups since 1999. Its student-run Wolverine Venture Fund, Frankel Commercialization Fund and Social Venture Fund have invested $3.5 million in some 30 companies, including successful exits by two U-M spinouts that returned $2 million to the Wolverine Fund in 2010.
  • North Campus Research Complex (, a two-million-square-foot array of office and laboratory space, was acquired by U-M in 2009. The complex, formerly a Pfizer R&D center, houses the Venture Accelerator and serves as a locus for many of U-M’s economic development efforts.
  • Annual research spending of more than $1.2 billion (, consistently among the top five in the nation, generates new discoveries and stimulates a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The synergy of highly ranked programs across U-M’s 19 schools and colleges, and the advantage of proximity offered by programs in Business, Engineering, Law and Medicine, enhance U-M’s vibrant environment for entrepreneurship.
  • U-M President Mary Sue Coleman is a founding co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, created by the U.S. Commerce Department to support President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and technology transfer. Also, U-M is one of six universities to collaborate in a new national Advanced Manufacturing Initiative recommended by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.