Marshall receives first royalty checks for patented product

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 22, 2007

HUNTINGTON -– Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp last week announced that the university has received its first-ever payment resulting from its effort to spur economic growth through support of intellectual property created by faculty.

Since December 2006, Marshall has received two royalty checks totaling $292.16 from Ecer Technologies, LLC, of Lewisburg, Kopp announced in a news conference at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center's Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre.

The checks were paid as part of a licensing agreement between Marshall and Ecer, which specializes in the creation and application of ultra energy efficient Solid State ElectroCeramescent Lighting, the patented product for which the agreement was formed.

"Today, we celebrate the opening of a new chapter in the continuing evolution of Marshall University," said Kopp, who in today's news conference was presented with a framed dollar bill representing the first royalty checks. Firefly Lighting Innovations of Roanoke, Va., is marketing and distributing the product.

"I predict this dollar bill will be followed by many more as Marshall intensifies its commitment to research-based economic development," Kopp said. "We are already working on future developments, so you can be certain that today is only the beginning."

This technology was created via partnerships with the Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI) and the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, along with Marshall University. U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, II said news of the royalty checks makes this "truly a landmark day in the history of Marshall University."

"Edison made over 2,000 attempts to find the best filament for his incandescent light bulb," Rahall said. "I don't know that we will ever know how many tries brought us here today. But we, as West Virginians, all realize hard work pays off. Today is only a glimmer of RTI's growing role in our economy, but at the same time, it's also a brilliant crystal clear beacon to light our future for the next several generations."

Rahall thanked those involved in the entire process, dating back to the cooperative research and development effort that began in the late 1990s.

"I commend President Kopp, whose vision for Marshall molds research to an emerging marketplace, and Senator (Robert) Plymale, director of the Rahall Transportation Institute, whose leadership in promising research promotes job development," Rahall said. "We are also again indebted to our own Senator Robert C. Byrd and the RCBI led by the capable Charlotte Weber, who first understood the promise here, and then worked to help secure the initial $2 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop this light technology. Thanks also to The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, who are helping bring this technology to market.

"Last but certainly not least, I commend the inventors, the thinkers, and the experimenters, Dr. Richard Begley, associate director of RTI, and Dr. Michael Norton, and the companies Ecer Technologies and Firefly Lighting Innovations who are investing not only in this useful safety lighting technology, but in West Virginia."

Weber, director and CEO of RCBI, said RCBI is extremely proud to have played an important role in the project.

"It's truly exciting to think about the tremendous impact this new patent promises to have – lighting the way to new manufacturing jobs for West Virginians while reducing energy costs for the nation's businesses and consumers," Weber said.

ElectroCeramescent Lighting, also known as LECD (light emitting ceramic device), is a flat ceramic-on-steel light-emitting bulb or device useful in signs for transportation and traditional advertising. Advantages of the new technology include improved durability and visibility during inclement weather and at night with smaller power requirements, according to Begley, one of two MU professors involved in the research and development of the product. Norton, a Marshall chemistry professor, also helped develop the device.

"We are at the forefront of a large commercialization opportunity resulting from a multi-disciplinary research success story," Begley said. "The combination of federal funding programs to support this and other types of research that have been masterfully established over the years by Senator Byrd and Representative Rahall were the catalyst for this project. And when we combine those programs with the support and enthusiasm of President Kopp for expanding engineering and multi-disciplinary research here at Marshall, our institution is on track for many other success stories like this in the years ahead."

Ron Graf, Firefly's marketing and sales director, said Firefly was "very impressed with LECD technology (Light Emitting Ceramic Device) the first time we saw it as a transportation safety application."

"We saw infinite possibilities for commercial and retail products this light source can be applied to," Graf said. "Firefly Lighting Innovations created our first marketing strategy for several non-transportation applications, a continuing process to discover new applications for commercial use. Our first product campaign for the Bedside Light Tray had many marketing challenges as a unique and unknown product. Today we are delighted to announce the successful results of our marketing efforts and share the proceeds from the sales of the first product line with Marshall University. We are encouraged that sales will continue to increase as we expand our marketing efforts regionally and then nationally."

Eric Gould, chairman of the board of Ecer Technologies, LLC, said the research support provided by Marshall University combined with the partnerships they helped Ecer develop with other state and federal agencies allowed Ecer to diversify its production line.

"These partnerships gave Ecer the ability to complete its research and development on Light Emitting Ceramic Devices (LECD) while continuing its metal manufacturing business," Gould said. "As sales for the LECD continue to grow, we are looking to establish a new production facility in West Virginia closer to Huntington that will continue to work with Marshall University, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, and the Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute to help maintain competitive manufacturing costs and further develop the LECD technology and its applications."

Begley joined with Norton, researchers from Alfred University College of Ceramics in New York and Meadow River Enterprises, Inc., a Lewisburg, W.Va., small manufacturing firm, in developing the ceramic-on-steel light-emitting device.

"There is a certain satisfaction in creating something new, in being a part of a creative team," Norton said. "I believe this is only the start of a great new trend for Marshall and I hope these events ignite the imagination of our students and faculty, reassuring them that great things can be done here at Marshall."

For more information on the product, contact Begley at (304) 696-6660 or Norton at (304) 696-6627.

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