Licensing Associate Aims to Help Market Great University Ideas
Lokesh Mohan wants to know about your idea. Then he wants to help promote it.
Connecting University of Idaho-born products and intellectual property with the marketplace is Mohan’s job as a licensing associate in the Office of Technology Transfer in the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED).
“I am very fond of getting the early stage inventions to the commercial market,” he said.
The office evaluates emerging technologies developed by UI faculty, staff and students to determine whether those inventions can be developed further into commercial products or services. Part of his job duties include developing the agreements and helping build the portfolios needed for an invention to be successful.
Success can pay dividends for UI and ORED over the long term: Part of the revenue from products shepherded through the university goes back to the college where the research was done – and to the researcher who took part in the work.
“Basically, we are here to help everyone,” he said.
The competitive environment of finding funding partners for researchers brings out the best in Mohan. A licensing associate since February 2017, he came to UI after working as a software engineer at HP and in market research with Nissan. He also held a similar role at the University of Texas, where Mohan earned his Master of Business Administration. He received a bachelor's in electronics and communication from Anna University in Tamil Nadu, India.
Mohan’s questions for researchers can be on the technical side as he looks at whether a specific project may need patent protection. He often queries about the mechanics of specific devices and their differences from existing products already on the market.
“If we see that the product is novel, we seek patent protection,” he said.
Getting that patent protection – or copyright protection for creative works like musical productions, songs, novels and computer software – is imperative for researchers to see the fruits of their work flourish.
“If you don’t have a protection on your invention, you won’t find anyone to invest in your product,” he said. “Patent protection plays an important role in the commercialization process.”
Mohan often visits poster presentations around UI as he tries to engage with more faculty members about their ideas. One of two licensing associates in OTT – the other is Karen Stevenson – Mohan’s expertise is in projects that emerge out of the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Without guidance, some impressive projects could sit on the shelf for years before finding a commercially viable avenue. He sees his role as helping facilitate that product development for faculty members, as well as getting them a partner that might be able to fund their ongoing research.
“I think utilizing my engineering and market research skills, that’s why I really enjoy this job,” he said.