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Monetizing Intellectual Property At Universities Part 1

Monetizing Intellectual Property at Universities - Part 1



19 September 20172 min read

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Monetizing Intellectual Property at Universities - Part 1

The Evolving Role of Universities in IP Management 

Traditionally, universities have focused on research, publication, and public dissemination of their findings. However, with increasing collaborations between industries and academia, universities now face the imperative task of formulating clear policies on intellectual property (IP) ownership and usage rights. 

This becomes crucial as stakeholders in IP have expanded from just universities and their faculty/students to include visiting researchers, industry partners, non-profits, government entities, and external consultants.

Historical Context of University-Owned Patents 

For many years, universities held patents for inventions by their students, researchers, and faculty. 

But earlier government regulations prevented universities from retaining commercialization royalties or owning stock in businesses created for product commercialization. While these regulations didn't stifle innovation or patent registrations, they created barriers in utilizing exclusive patent rights effectively.

Awareness and Agreements Among University Community 

A major challenge for universities is raising awareness among students and researchers about IP creation and categorization. 

Typically, universities require students and researchers to sign agreements assigning IP ownership to the university if created using university resources. This gives universities the right to decide on IP registration and monetization strategies. 

However, the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Stanford v. Roche necessitated adjustments in these agreements, emphasizing automatic assignments to universities rather than direct ownership claims.

Current University Agreements and IP Challenges 

Contemporary agreements acknowledge the student or professor as the IP's inventor/author but create an automatic assignment favoring the university. 

Yet, two primary challenges persist: ensuring awareness among the university community, especially transient members like visiting researchers, and the university's role in acknowledging and compensating IP creators and ensuring effective IP utilization.

Copyrights in Academic Settings 

Copyrightable material - such as course materials, research papers, and books - constitutes a significant portion of IP in universities. 

The challenge lies in ownership clarity, especially as universities expand their reach through in-house publishing and participation in industry conferences. 

The advent of online courses and MOOCs further complicates these ownership issues, necessitating clear policies for content update and distribution rights.

Trademarks, Trade Names, and Branding in University-Backed Startups 

Understanding and managing trademarks, trade names, and branding is crucial for university-backed startups. 

Early incorporation with intended trade names and trademark registrations is essential to ensure IP ownership by the company. 

Universities play a vital role in brand-building for campus startups, aiding in initial incorporation costs and trademark filings, and promoting visibility through student events and career fairs.

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