This paper addresses an issue that has been largely ignored so far in the empirical literature on the role of patents in university–industry knowledge transfer: does it matter who owns the patents on university research? we observe that especially in europe, many patents in which university researchers are listed as inventors are not owned by the university. From a literature review, we conclude that private ownership of university patents may reduce the efficiency of the knowledge transfer process. This hypothesis is put to an empirical test, using data on patents in six european countries. Specifically, we assess whether university-owned patents (in europe) are more often applied, and/or more economically valuable, than university-invented (but not-owned) patents. Our results indicate that, after correcting for observable patent characteristics, there are only very small differences between university-owned and university-invented patents in terms of their rate of commercialization or economic value.