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Abstract

While the literature examining university engagement in patenting and technology transfer is quite developed, commentators largely have overlooked university involvement in patent litigation. This article focuses on one aspect of that involvement—initiation of patent infringement litigation—by providing a quantitative and textual analysis of patent infringement actions initiated by universities from 2009 through 2010. Suing for-profit actors for money may seem antithetical to the mission of not-for-profit universities, but in fact universities filed over fifty such cases in the studied time period. Examination of these cases reveals a remarkable similarity between the litigation behavior of universities and for-profit actors, as well as complex and varied relationships between universities, their licensees, and research foundations closely affiliated with universities. These findings situate within a larger conversation over the commercial, political, and social implications of science, education, and innovation and suggest that further attention to the activity is warranted, given the substantial public investments in both public and private higher education that result in patentable inventions.