In reality, Google co-founder Larry Page just wanted to finish his doctorate, said Luis Mejia, a senior associate in the Office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University.
Mejia, who was working behind the desk one day in the mid-1990s when Page came in, said Page wanted Mejia's office to license the PageRank invention and get some royalties while he went back to his academic work.
Unfortunately, licensing proved difficult. Only one search engine company made an offer, and it was more of a token offer. "They (Page and fellow Google co-founder Sergey Brin) got frustrated so they decided to start a company," he said during a presentation Monday at the California Clean Tech Open. (Mejia was there to plug energy concepts at Stanford--like artificial photosynthesis--but he couldn't resist.)
The technology licensing office agreed to license the patents back to the pair--technically, the university owns professor and student research, but it willingly licenses it back to the originators. Still, it was an unusual deal. The two didn't have a business plan or money, so the university decided to take an equity stake in the company.
Stanford eventually sold its shares for $336 million, said Mejia. The Google work and patents on recombinant DNA have brought the university over $500 million. The office overall has earned the university over $1 billion in the past few decades.
So it's another happy ending story, thanks to patents.