Commercializing "intellectual property" at Bowling Green State University isn’t so much about
bringing royalty dollars into its coffers.
The priority is contributing to the economic development of the region.
But it certainly wouldn’t hurt if that intellectual property resulted in the same success found by the
University of Florida’s Gators, with athletes around the world glugging "Gatorade."
The exclusive license which Blue Water Satellite Inc. has with BGSU has made it the "first official
spinoff company" which is making commercial use of the university’s intellectual property.
In this case, BGSU received a patent in November 2006 for an algorithm developed by Dr. Robert Vincent, a
professor of geology, on how to use satellite information to detect cyanobacteria in large bodies of
It then licensed the use of that patent to Blue Water Satellite, for which it pays BGSU a royalty.
Six months after Blue Water Satellite began, the company has been successful enough to give a small
royalty payment to BGSU for $213.
According to Dr. Deanne Snavely, interim vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate College, the
royalty payments really reimburse the university for its costs in applying for the patent and
maintaining it, as well as other fees.
Only after those are recovered does the university see a profit from the licensing.
Along with Blue Water Satellite, BGSU has two additional spin-off companies in the works, CrossHairs
Technologies Inc., founded by Frank Murray, and At-Bat Stats, founded by BGSU graduate Bill Johnston.
When a company is able to start up and be successful, like Blue Water Satellite, BGSU is among the
But according to Snavely, a spin-off company’s success "is not so much about the money; it’s about
the economic development piece. It’s a contribution to the region for economic development. BGSU now has
a shared interest in this young company being successful. We’re very proud it’s located in Wood County,
and it’s a high-tech company. That’s all very good.
"We’re working to develop other technologies, also, either applying for patents or intellectual
property," Snavely added. "We have patents on ceramics rapid prototyping, a technique to make
three-dimensional ceramic replicas." She said the university is working to license that technology
to Z Corp. Inc., an existing company.
When faculty members, such as Vincent, come up with an invention or patentable idea which has commercial
value, they disclose it to the patent advisory and technology development oversight committee.
The committee then recommends to Snavely what the university should do. She said the intellectual
property is really owned by the State of Ohio, but it delegates to the university the oversight and
ability to commercialize it.
The disclosure process has been around "for a long time." Snavely, a former chemistry professor
herself, reported a disclosure to BGSU 15 years ago.
What has changed in recent years is the state’s "expectation more and more that universities should
participate in the economic development of their region. Along with that expectation is an expectation
that we develop intellectual property and that we commercialize it."
BGSU has adopted the state’s directive, forming the Office of Technology Transfer & Services
which handles intellectual property and the licensing of university-owned patents.
It has given BGSU new options. If the "pat doc" committee finds the disclosure contains
patentable ideas, "then we work with the Office of Technology Transfer & Services, and the
Office of General Counsel here at BGSU to apply for a patent.
And at the same time we’re identifying the potential markets for this idea, and seeing if we can identify
an existing corporation or company that might like to lease the intellectual property."
In addition, BGSU works with its Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership which helps alumni
turn their innovative ideas into start-up businesses.
And BGSU offers its expertise to outside agencies, governmental or business, for help with a study, the
collection of data or its analysis.
BGSU also has a strong partnership with the Regional Growth Partnership and its high-tech financial
development arm, Rocket Ventures.