Charles R. McManis, and Barbara A. Wrigley
|Copyright © 2005 Carolina Academic Press. For permission, see CMI.|
Problem 15: Joint Research Agreements with Government-Sponsored Participants
Contair's Racing Division has been asked to test a new lubricant technology. Researchers at the universities of Illinois and Wisconsin, working together under a Department of Energy grant, have developed bacteria that can break down motor oil contaminants into harmless byproducts, potentially allowing automobiles to go 20,000 miles or more between oil changes. The universities have obtained assignments from their inventors, filed a U.S. patent application and licensed the bacteria exclusively to BELCO.
BELCO has conducted successful pilot studies and now desires to test the nascent technology in the Estrella Grand Prix car under harsh racing conditions. At the same time, the two universities are working with BELCO to advance and improve the technology, testing new strains of bacteria to improve their longevity and efficiency. Those projects are taking place at BELCO with scientists from both universities in residence. BECLO also has filed its own patent applications for methods of adding bacteria to various motor oils and lubricants. The universities continue to file new U.S. and foreign patent applications.
Contair's engineers are excited about the testing opportunity but would like to go further and conduct a joint research program. They believe they can develop a new sensor that will measure the bacterial activity in the engine and thus detect when the longer-lasting oil will need to be changed. Such a sensor could be sold to auto manufacturers to be installed in cars using the new bacteria-impregnated motor oils.
However, Contair's Vice President is concerned that negotiating an R&D and intellectual property agreement with the three entities mightl present several problems for Contair:
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