When the small company, Wireless Valley Communications Inc., was launched in Blacksburg, Va., in 1995 based on a dozen inventions by Virginia Tech faculty members and students, Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP) licensed the inventions to the company and asked for 1 percent share of the company instead of royalties.
"The company wanted to devote its cash to development and VTIP's assessment was that the enterprise would likely have value in the future," said Raymond Smoot, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Virginia Tech Foundation and a VTIP board member.
Wireless Valley develops software that sets up and manages wireless networks. In December, the company was sold to Motorola, a world leader in wireless telecommunication devices, and VTIP's one percent netted the non-profit university affiliate $300,000. Sixty percent of the money will be distributed among the original inventors and the balance will go to VTIP.
Wireless Valley was founded in 1995 by Virginia Tech electrical engineering professor Ted Rappaport, the company's chairman and chief technology officer. Rappaport was also one of the major inventors of the technology, along with his colleagues and graduate students, many of whom were members of the Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group at Virginia Tech. The company was moved to Austin, Texas, in 2002, after Rappaport took a faculty position at the University of Texas. At the time of sale, Wireless Valley had about 25 employees. According to the Austin Business Journal (Dec. 22, 2005), Wireless Valley's software has garnered more than 130 patents in the United States and abroad.
Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. was established in 1985 as a university affiliated, non-profit, private corporation. VTIP handles, protects, and licenses technologies developed by the faculty, staff, and students at Virginia Tech. The goals are to protect university intellectual properties so that they can be developed as new products, facilitate the creation of new businesses and jobs, help society, and provide revenues for additional research and development. Learn more about VTIP and the intellectual properties available.