Despite well-publicized, lucrative licensing deals, most university technology experts find that patenting and licensing inventions is a process laden with potential pitfalls. While universities claim that the investment is generally worthwhile for a number of reasons, the challenge, many specialists say, is choosing the right project and matching it with the right industry at the right time. Patents often languish, investments frequently sour.

The fact is, for every income-earning patent, million-dollar winners aside, there are probably three or four losers -- patented research in which companies, for one reason or another, simply aren't interested. University licensing specialists claim that with patenting costs that can run tens of thousands of dollars, they are often content to break even.

"If your goal is to make millions, there are probably less risky ways than trying to commercialize university research results," notes Teri Willey, director of special technology projects in Purdue University's Office of...

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