academia at Risk: Antiquated Intellectual Property Policy


Our schools and colleges face enlarging potholes on the information superhighway because of antiquated intellectual property policies in academia. Many academic institutions have no explicit intellectual property policy; others may have established policies for inventions by faculty and researchers and trademark licensing for major college football teams. However, the current widespread computer literacy coupled with the explosive economic growth of the Internet, multimedia content, and computerized entertainment now enable students and nontraditional academic participants to create valuable assets. Additionally, group-based entrepreneurial classes rarely are structured for clear intellectual property ownership. Traditional work-for-hire analysis was not crafted for students and minors. Most in academia are ill-prepared for the currently needed advance definitions of who owns what.

The traditional academic concern is with copyright, academic freedom, plagiarism, and who gets authorship credit. But authorship is more complex. Academic credit is quite different from legal copyright ownership. Academic tradition may grant authorship for key conceptual ideas, innovative research designs, and integrative research theories. Copyright doesn't, patent may or may not.

Deciding both academic authorship and copyright/patent ownership should generally be done before research begins. If the creators of intellectual property cannot agree or, more likely, neglect to obtain written agreements beforehand, valuable assets will be lost as public domain. Alternatively, if schools and colleges now discuss, adopt, and publish more modern intellectual property policies, fair allocations may be made and assets increased, not wasted.

A sample draft acknowledgment and policy is provided.

Copyright © KeganLaw. Use granted upon notice and credit to KeganLaw, Chicago IL USA.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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