Intellectual property technology transfer is a practice among certain companies and even countries in which one company, individual, or government transfers a piece of technology or technological process to another entity.

What Is a Technology Transfer?

The market for research and development in the United States has been using technology transfers more and more between industries, governments, and universities. Technology transfer covers a wide scope, but in the business world, it usually refers to:

  • Technology transferred between nations
  • Technology transferred privately
  • Technology transferred from public to private

International technology transfers usually happen when a more developed country gives technologies or the means to create them to another country. These transfers can create political issues as in the case of weapons transfers. If a nation that is considered hostile buys the technologies for a certain type of weapon from another country, it can quickly cause concern worldwide.

Another form of international technology transfer is called a north-south transfer. This refers to the transfer of technology from nations that are industrialized to those that are under-developed with hopes to help the poorer country's economy.

When companies trade technology among themselves, it's called private technology transfer. If a public entity like a government or university lab trades technology with a private company, it's called a public-private technology transfer.

International Intellectual Property Technology Transfers 

Both international intellectual property (IP) technology transfers and north-south transfers are frequently wrapped up in concerns of national defense or foreign policy. In the process of an international technology transfer, either a group of experts are sent to a country to teach and develop processes or tools there, or other means of technological development are sent as in specific products that possess advanced technology independent of any outside influence.

Private Intellectual Property Technology Transfers

In some cases, a more successful or well-developed company may transfer the IP rights of a certain technology to a smaller company. This usually happens when those companies have formed some kind of partnership.

Technology transfer happens in many ways, but these are the most common:

  • Trade of tangible products that embody some kind of technology
  • Trade of a process that puts a particular technology into practice
  • Trade of skilled, knowledgeable individuals or valuable IP that will become the source of the development of a technology

Why Transfer Technology?

Frequently, companies will transfer technology in order to sell their products or processes. The technology is likely developed by one company but marketed by another. Usually a parent company will own two or more smaller companies and manage the transfer of IP between them.

Technology commercialization is when technology is introduced to the market to be sold. This process can be the responsibility of one company in which the technology is invented, developed, produced, and sold. But in some cases one company handles only a piece of the process.

If a company is inventing technologies but doesn't have the means to market them, they might partner with a larger company to sell their products or implement them somehow. A company needs a sales organization or distribution network in order to successfully market a product. Larger companies, or simply those with a successful marketing process will purchase the IP for a technology from a development firm or inventor and sometimes share profits.

Certain types of organizations are not allowed by law to market their inventions or processes for profit. Government laboratories and organizations funded by the federal government must transfer their intellectual property technologies to private companies if they want it to reach the marketplace.

Colleges and universities are not restricted from the private market like government labs, but they usually lack the means to market a product or process successfully. A university lab can partner with or sell their technology to a company in the private sector for technology commercialization.

Intellectual property technology transfer is beneficial to both sides of the transfer. The inventors, whether individuals or organizations, get to see their technology put to use and profit from it when they may not have had the ability to do so alone. Countries without advancements in research and technology can benefit from the developments of others. Companies that want to compete in certain markets, but don't have the means to fund the research and development processes can purchase fully-developed technology to sell.

If you need help with an intellectual property technology transfer, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.