IP Policies for Universities and Research Institutions

Universities and research institutions seeking to partner with industry or other organizations need a policy for effective intellectual property (IP) management and technology transfer.

Such policies provide structure, predictability, and a beneficial environment, in which commercialization partners (industrial sponsors, consultants, non-profit organizations, SMEs, governments) and research stakeholders (researchers, technicians, students, visiting researchers, etc.) can access and share knowledge, technology and IP.

Each university or research institution has the autonomy to develop its own approach, taking into account the interests of all stakeholders.

Teacher with students in laboratory
(Photo: University Constantine 3 Salah Boubnider)

Technology transfer on the move: University Constantine 3 Salah Boubnider

University Constantine 3 Salah Boubnider (UC3) became the first university in Algeria to develop an IP policy to increase the likelihood of technology transfer and academic research commercialization

What is an institutional intellectual property policy?

An institutional IP policy is a formal document which typically deals with:

  • ownership of and right to use the IP;
  • procedures for identification, evaluation, protection and management of IP;
  • procedures for cooperation with third parties;
  • guidelines on the sharing of profits from successful commercialization;
  • mechanisms to ensure respect for third-party IP rights.

An institutional IP policy is usually part of the broader regulatory framework of an institution. As such, it must be coherent and compliant with the other acts or policies put in place, especially those related closely to the scope of the institutional IP policy. This is the case notably for policies regulating:

  • a specific type of IP or asset (e.g. copyright, trademark, utility models, software);
  • participation of students in research;
  • collaboration with industry;
  • confidentiality;
  • functioning of the institution’s Technology Transfer Office (if there is one);
  • creation of institutional spin-off companies.

Very often, such institutional policies are cross-referenced.

What are the main goals of an institutional 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.

Read the full list of FAQs on technology transfer.

Gears in the form of a starry sky
(Photo: Leyn/Getty Images)

The relationship between national IP policies, national IP strategies and institutional IP policies

National IP policies express the intent of a country to use the intellectual property system in a defined manner to achieve a stated goal.

National IP strategies are measures taken by a government to realize its IP policy objectives. Many IP-related policies and strategies promote research and innovation and encourage the transfer and dissemination of technology.

Institutional IP policies are policies put in place by universities or research institutions to address IP issues typically encountered during collaboration with external parties and commercialization of academic research. An institutional IP policy must comply with all relevant national policies and strategies. There will be circumstances in which national laws impose limitations on how individual universities and research institutions can deal with IP rights or share benefits. Subject to those limitations, each institution may regulate the principles of ownership of IP rights through its internal IP policy, employment contracts and other contractual arrangements.

Five steps to creating an effective institutional IP policy

No one model policy can be applied across all institutions or countries, since there are important country-specific institutional differences as well as different levels of absorptive capacity (i.e. the capacity of local businesses to recognize the value of new external information, assimilate it and apply it to commercial ends).

Furthermore, countries and institutions are still experimenting with a mix of different institutional IP policies and practices, gathering evidence on what works and what does not.

However, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the institutional IP policy you are working on is effective and corresponds to your institution’s needs.

1. Find inspiration in existing institutional IP policies

2. Involve the right people

3. Consider key policy choices

4. Draft your institutional IP policy

5. Disseminate and improve your institutional IP policy

Need more support? Apply for a project to develop a national model IP policy for universities in your country.

WIPO undertakes a range of activities to support the development of IP policies for universities and research institutions around the world. Our projects are tailor-made, and typically involve assessment missions, recommendations with best practices, development of a national model IP policy for universities, and practical assistance to selected universities and research institutions in drafting tailored IP policies. Applications can be made through your national IP Office.

WIPO IP Policy Toolkit

The IP Toolkit helps universities and research institutions deal with key issues such as ownership of IP and rights of use, IP disclosure, IP management, commercialization of IP, incentives for researchers, recording and accounting, and conflicts of interest.

  • IP Policy Writer’s Checklist DOC, title goes here
  • IP Policy Template for Academic and Research Institutions DOC, title goes here
  • Guidelines for Customization of the IP Policy Template DOC, title goes here
(Image: Getty Images/bubaone)

Institutional IP policies and copyright

Universities and research institutions are large producers and users of copyright material. An institution’s IP policy should therefore clarify its position regarding:

  • ownership of copyrighted material created by staff and students including, but not limited to, teaching material, course material, software, dissertations, project reports and theses;
  • use of third-party materials;
  • dealing with copyright infringement;
  • licensing and assigning rights;
  • application of limitations and exceptions;
  • user-generated content in e-learning;
  • open access policies and strategies;
  • copyright in peer-reviewed materials;
  • IP issues in websites;
  • open educational resources (OER).
(Photo: iStock/professor25)