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Academica – Industry: Learning from each other

As a student of Intellectual Property Law, I have often came cross scholars criticizing industry being more influential in International IP negotiation, ignoring the prospects of creating balanced IP regime between developing and developed country which ultimately boost global IP regime. Academia and industry have their own perspectives on IP but some form of collaboration would certainly lead to a sustainable intellectual property regime.

On 17th October 2014, I had an opportunity to attend the lecture of Prof. Meir Pugatch, one in the series of expert lectures held in the IPKM programme. It was a great experience for me to hear from an industry person and academic, on how industry and academics can learn from each other in order to improve IP. For me, being from the least-developing country Nepal, where intellectual property rights are treated as neglected stepchildren and where an IP-centric industry as well as IP academics are lacking, it is very fascinating to hear how, in his experience, we could learn from a Western perspective on the industry-academic struggle for a better IP regime.

Prof. Pugatch introduced the topic by highlighting that the field of intellectual property is more represented by IP practitioners and academics than industry. The perspectives of looking at each other have changed rapidly over the last ten years. Previously, there was no synergy between both. He felt that at present, there is a greater sense of collaboration than before. In spite of growing collaboration, there is still a lot to learn from each other.

What Industry can learn from Academia?

When some ten years ago, the illegal use of online material, in particular downloading increased significantly, industries were looking for the best possible way to protect their assets by prohibiting certain tools of copying. However, they ignored that the technology that they tried to prohibit back then could have and has become a useful way to earn revenue. Who would have thought that the search engine GOOGLE would become a technology platform by inventing Google glasses? Academics have often raised the importance of this type of technology and their perspective has certainly given world a technology in form of Internet, Facebook among others. Such ideas came from academics; therefore, in Prof. Pugatch’s experience, industry can learn something from academics on the culture of creativity.

Also, academics are better trained in the art of providing more modest propositions, especially when asserting one’s opinion on a topic, whether in a PhD dissertation or an article, scholars (usually) do not make blunt statements; the system of ‘modesty’ is built in the way scholars criticizing lectures, articles, opinions, etc. Such discourse is less common in industry where strong statements are used to criticize certain ideas, but these might be ‘forgotten’ about quickly and the complete opposite is being argued. In Prof. Pugatch’s opinion, industry can learn from academics in stating its case in a more nuansed way

Finally, in Prof. Pugatch’s opinion, industry would do good if it selected its employees more on the basis of diversity (an important criteria in the selection of an academic) than similarity. Industry staff tends to be trained in thinking and behaving in a similar way. However, during their work, they are expected to be diverse in their views, which they often find hard to do. Therefore, since diversity in people often provides better outcomes due to the variety of views, industry could learn from academia when selecting for diversity.

What Academia can learn from Industry?

Prof. Pugatch’s feels academia can also learn from industry. Academics and their results are hardly put to a real test similar to the market test. In industry, measurement of success and failure is very clear. The market test is honest, either you improve your products accordingly or you are out. Academics, however, don’t put their ideas to the test; they publish their findings but do not check whether their findings are accepted in practice or not. They don’t provide criteria for evaluation and hence end up researching the same subject over and over again without being aware of its acceptance. Prof. Pugatch feels that there has to be some sort of reality check for academics, like that of industry.

Also, industry is more courageous in making use of available information and coming with some suitable product, which may or may not work. This allows the product to be further researched and the innovation life cycle will continues. In his opinion, academics hesitate to make use of limited information because they fear to achieve incomplete outcomes, let alone being afraid to be criticized by their peers.. Hence in many cases IP academics tend to opt for more rhetorical or conceptual types of arguments without making real use of existing data. Furthermore they tend to justify this approach by stating that there is enough data out there to allow for a more empirical line of work. In his opinion, that is inappropriate because such an approach does not lead to progress or new achievements. Therefore, academics should become more courageous, as industry in this respect.

Overall, while the presentation by Prof. Pugatch emphasized the differences between academia and industry, he concluded by emphasizing the need and ability to work together, and that innovation by both academia and industry will substantially contribute to an effective and competitive community of IP scholars and practice.

by Pratyush Nath Upreti

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