Volume 79, Number 4

October 2004

The Informal Experimental Use Exception: University Research After Madey v. Duke University

Cristina Weschler

A recent decision of the Federal Circuit, Madey v. Duke University, highlights the extremely limited protection granted to universities conducting noncommercial research from claims of patent infringement. The proper scope of the experimental use exception has been hotly debated among legal scholars, with many asserting that a broad defense is necessary to allow universities to freely conduct valuable experimental science and basic research. This Note examines the structure of university research in an effort to explain why, despite any significant legal protection, it is often in the interest of patent holders to allow infringing noncommercial research to continue unchallenged. Specifically, the commercial ties that exist between universities and for-profit entities serve to protect academic noncommercial research. While providing universities with less protection than a strengthened common law or statutory defense, this nonlegal “informal” research exception performs much the same function as a recognized experimental use exception.