- The Branding of the American Mind: How Universities Capture, Manage, and Monetize Intellectual Property and Why it Matters by Jacob H. Rooksby
A deep and ever expanding higher education literature has, for at least the past twenty years, examined the commodification and commercialization of higher education institutions. Termed academic capitalism (Rhodes & Slaughter, 2004), higher education as industry (Gumport, 2000), and university entrepreneurship (Rothaermel, Agung & Jiang, 1997), commercially-oriented activities of colleges and universities may diminish their much-needed contributions to the public good. Scholars frequently point to the expanding use of intellectual property protection mechanisms, including copyright and patent protection, as well as the rise of so-called interstitial organizations, such as technology transfer and economic development officers, as evidence of this trend (Rhodes and Slaughter, 2004).
In his book The Branding of the American Mind: How Universities Capture, Manage, and Monetize Intellectual Property and Why it Matters, Jacob H. Rooksby contributes to our understanding of commercialization within higher education by examining "the accumulation and enforcement of private rights" among colleges and universities (p. ix). Professor Rooksby posits that the rapid increase in intellectual property protection is by all accounts "an unwelcomed challenge to the public-interest aspect of higher education" and goes to great lengths to help the reader understand why (p. ix). Perhaps most important to those of us lacking formal legal training, Rooksby's book explains the complexities of intellectual property management and policy within the context of higher education in a way that is accessible and interesting.
A practicing attorney and professor at Duquesne University School of Law, Rooksby brings a unique legal perspective to higher education policy. My own work focuses on the often-counterproductive nature of policies and practices associated with formal university technology transfer. Yet, a recent comprehensive review of the technology transfer literature finds that researchers have conceptualized technology transfer primarily as a linear, patent-centric process eschewing other forms of knowledge dissemination (Bradley, Hayter & Link, 2013). This point is important in order to understand the scholarly contribution of Professor Rooksby's book: the growth in patenting is emblematic of the rapid growth of all forms of university intellectual property protection, including copyright, trademark, and trade secrets. In other words, patents are but one intellectual property mechanism employed by colleges and universities, albeit one that has received the most attention by scholars and policymakers.
Following a clever introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 provides a primer on the different forms of intellectual property protection. In contrast to sleep-inducing intellectual property guides that I have read in the past, explanations of copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secret protection are concise and relevant; discussions of internet domain names and right of publicity are complementary. These mechanisms are tied to different government authorities (e.g., patents are governed entirely by federal law, while trade secrets are governed entirely by state law), and this complicates the landscape in which colleges and universities operate. We nonetheless understand from the first chapter that the risk to higher education is not from intellectual property or intellectual property law per se but rather the policy and management decisions of higher education institutions that determine how and why these diverse mechanisms are used. To be clear, Professor Rooksby's book aptly portrays the intellectual property decisions of colleges and universities as more akin to revenue-maximizing businesses than organizations primarily focused on contributing to the public good.
The following three chapters respectively focus on how trademark, patents, and copyrights are employed within higher education. The fourth [End Page 630] chapter focuses on amalgams of practice and intellectual property mechanisms that support the brand of individual colleges and universities. Each chapter, including Chapter 1, is introduced by an illustrative, if not entertaining story about the aggressive protection and enforcement of a specific university's intellectual property using the mechanism highlighted in that chapter. Chapter 3, for example, begins with the story about Mary Cesar, owner of Mary's Cakes and Pastries...