Sunday, March 29, 2015

Debate over intellectual property rights at Ohio State University

The background presumption in academic environments is that invention rights belong to the university but IP in scholarly works belongs to the professor. Now, that presumption may be changing.

From "Inside Higher Ed":

Earlier this month, an ad hoc, faculty-led committee charged with updating Ohio State’s 14-year-old intellectual property policy presented a draft to the Faculty Council. According to a copy obtained by Inside Higher Ed, “All rights, title and interests in intellectual property (I.P.) are the sole property of the university” if the faculty, staff or student creators were “acting within the scope of their employment,” using “funding, equipment or infrastructure provided by or through the university,” or carrying out the research at any university facility. (The language mimics state code on the matter.)

The draft policy says that faculty members and others “acknowledge that they are bound by this policy by accepting or continuing university employment or by using university resources or facilities and acknowledge and agree that they hereby irrevocably assign all rights, title and interests in such I.P. to the university.”


The problem:

Ulrich Heinz, a professor of physics at Ohio State and a member of the University Senate, said the policy’s biggest flaw lies in its failure to differentiate innovations from scholarly work up front. That the policy names the university as the default owner of all intellectual property -- and then grants some rights to scholarly work back to the creator -- is highly problematic, Heinz said.

“They start from the presumption -- which I think is completely wrong -- that all intellectual property is owned by the university,” Heinz said, “and from that premise, scholarly works such as books and other copyright are reassigned by the university to the faculty.”

Instead, he said, the policy should be “putting things into two different pots to begin with, to make sure that everything that has been true in the past remains true.”


The previous understanding at Ohio State University:


Currently, Ohio State’s Policy on Patents and Copyrights requires that researchers report only inventions to the university, which may claim rights to products involving “significant use” of university facilities or resources. “Works of authorship,” such as most books, papers and artistic works, belong to their creators.




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