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Students walk across campus at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in this 2005 file photo.

Patents by UT campuses and institutes in 2014

UT Institute of Agriculture: 4

› UT Knoxville: 15

› UT Health Science Center: 12

› UT Graduate School of Medicine: 3

NASHVILLE — The University of Tennessee and five other higher education institutions in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide in terms of the number of U.S. technology patents granted in 2014, according to a new report.

The UT system ranked No. 91 in the report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. The university received 24 "utility" patents.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a utility patent is issued for the invention of a "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement." It generally gives the owner the exclusive right to make, use or sell the invention for up to 20 years.

"The granting of patents indicates that our faculty and research staff across the system are producing quality outcomes with potential for commercialization, and as a University, we are committed to providing an atmosphere that supports innovation and encourages our researchers to seek protection of their discoveries," said David Millhorn, president of the UT Research Foundation and executive vice president and vice president of research for the UT System, in a statement.

Tennessee tied with the University of Alabama at Birmingham for the 91st slot.

The Georgia Tech Research Corp. ranked No. 25 worldwide with 78 utility patents. Vanderbilt University in Nashville ranked 41st with 55. Emory University in Atlanta came in at No. 58 with 35 utility patents. No. 73 with 30 patents was the University of Georgia Research Foundation.

Grabbing the No. 1 spot was the University of California system with 453 patents. No. 2 was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with 275. Tsinghua University in China was No. 3 with 230.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Tuesday that he had not heard the news and seemed pleased.

"But I do know this in Tennessee," the governor said. "We actually in terms of the patents produced per resident, we're at the top end of that. What we haven't always done a good job of as a state is taking those and figuring out how do we build businesses out of that. A lot of patents have come out of Tennessee, and the businesses wound up being grown somewhere else."

In addition to UT and Vanderbilt, Tennessee is home to the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory that conducts science research. There have been continuing discussions over how state entrepreneurs and companies can take better advantage of that.

In 2014, ORNL announced new methods are improving connections between private businesses and technology from the lab with 101 licenses and options executed during the last three years.

Haslam said one of the ideas behind the state's Launch Tennessee program is "how do we take those great ideas and make certain we build businesses." The public-private partnership focuses on supporting development of "high-growth companies" here to meet Haslam's goal of making Tennessee "the No. 1 place in the Southeast to start and grow a business."

Overall, the University of Tennessee had 34 patents in calendar year 2014. The report ranks the number of patents based on the first named assignee on the patent. That was 24 for UT. The university says there were 10 more patents in which the university was not the first assignee.

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