Successful License Management: 3 Best Practices of Top Compliance Officers

Compliance Officers
By Hope Hartman, Inteum Company


I was talking with a friend and former colleague a couple weeks ago, who remains the License Compliance Officer at the institution I worked for while in technology transfer. I remember the first time I walked into his office something stopped me in my tracks: a dry erase board hanging on the wall that read “The Top 10 Most Wanted.”

As I was new to technology transfer at the time, almost 10 years ago, I wanted to know the meaning of this list. He explained it was a list of licensees out of compliance for which he was tasked with establishing contact and trying to recover lost revenue. He was very successful, recovering around $750,000 one year.

One of the Top 10 suspects, I met in person. After finally establishing contact and setting up a meeting, the man was requested to meet with “THE UNIVERSITY.”  The poor man was sweating buckets the day he arrived. Little did he know, we were all wondering if he was going to terminate the license (always an option for either party). He explained he had inherited the company, a paper manufacturer, from his father and they had to change strategies.

He needed 6 months extra time so that he could fulfill the obligations of the license. It was easy enough to reach agreed terms, but the man could’ve avoided a fair bit of anxiety and our office a fair amount of headache with a little better communication.

Now that I’m outside of the academic tech transfer office, I see compliance from another angle. Over the past 5+ years I’ve heard comments like, “We’re just happy to receive a check.” All joking aside, wouldn’t it be a more ideal situation to be in regular communications with your licensees and know when you will receive money?

There are a few best practices I’ve observed over the years and I’d like to share them with you:

3 Top Practices for Successful License Compliance Management

  1. Manage the relationship in a proactive way, versus reactive (after something has gone wrong.)
  2. Communicate throughout the year, not just when money is due.
  3. When an issue arises, talk about it preferably face to face. This can even be accomplished via web cam.

Although self-sustaining TTO’s may think “show me the money” (an image of Jerry Maguire is coming to mind), taking a healthier approach to managing relationships with your licensees is critical. Stay in touch throughout the year to check on the company’s progress, mention their noteworthy news, and confirm your contacts are the same. This way you won’t be caught off guard or just “waiting for the check to arrive.” The extra effort will pay huge long term dividends for your office in the long term, and will foster mutually beneficial relationships with your licensees.

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