IP Policies for Universities and Research Institutions
Universities and public research institutions (PRIs) play an important role in advancing the frontiers of science and technology. They are the birthplaces of pioneering discoveries and inventions that have enhanced the lives of millions.
Knowledge and technology generated in universities and PRIs can have immense economic and societal benefit. Getting discoveries from a lab to the marketplace is the central reason for a university/PRI to develop a robust intellectual property (IP) policy.
Intellectual property (IP) plays an essential role in the teaching and research functions of universities and PRIs.
IP and research
Whether it be basic (“blue-sky”) or applied research, through their R&D activities, universities and PRIs produce results in the form of inventions. Many of these inventions are patentable, yet many are also no more than proofs of concept or laboratory-scale prototypes, which require further R&D prior to their possible commercialization. By granting universities and PRIs the rights to their own IP derived from publicly-financed research, and allowing them to commercialize their results, governments around the world are trying to accelerate the transformation of inventions into industrial processes and products, and to strengthen collaborative ties amongst universities and industries.
IP and teaching
In addition, a university or PRI’s teaching activities will also generate IP, such as teaching materials, theses, software or designs. The Internet and modern technologies have fostered not only greater access to scholarly materials, but also greater conflicts over their ownership and use. Thus, universities and PRIs need suitable IP policies to deal with the ownership and management of teaching materials, access to scholarly information and use of third party materials.
Traditionally, universities served the public interest by providing graduates to meet the needs of industry and business in its vicinity. With that focus, universities have published the results of their research activities, making them freely available. Nowadays, this is often viewed as being incompatible with industry’s need to keep information confidential and protected by IP rights, such as patents. Rapidly-progressing globalization requires universities and PRIs to be open to business and international collaboration. This in turn requires ensuring that research results are effectively protected and managed, by making effective use of the IP system.
Identifying and creating IP and bringing research results to the next stage of development have become institutional objectives in many universities and PRIs. In this context, an institutional IP policy is a prerequisite for successful collaboration between academia and commercialization partners.
An institutional IP policy is a formally-adopted document, which:
- clarifies the ownership of and right to use the IP resulting from the institution’s own or collaborative R&D activities;
- sets out the rules of the institution on how to accurately identify, evaluate, protect and manage IP for its further development, usually through some form of commercialization; and
- provides a transparent framework for cooperation with third parties and provides guidelines on the sharing of economic benefits arising from the commercialization of IP.
Without a formal document regulating the ownership and use of IP rights, the different stakeholders in a university/PRI (professors, researchers, students, visiting researchers, etc.) and commercialization partners (industrial sponsors, consultants, non-profit organizations, SMEs, or governments) would have no guidance on how to make decisions concerning IP.
Main goals of an IP policy:
- Provide legal certainty.
- Promote scientific research and technological development.
- Encourage researchers to consider the possible opportunities for exploiting an invention so as to increase the potential flow of benefits to society.
- Provide an environment that supports and encourages innovation and development.
- Balance the various conflicting interests of universities, industry and society.
- Ensure compliance with applicable national laws and regulations.
If you are writing an IP policy, consult our database of IP policies, manuals, and model agreements.
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"Universities are the factories of the knowledge economy. Intellectual property adds another mechanism for universities to disseminate the knowledge that they generate and to have that knowledge used in the economic sector." WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry