Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Developing an Intellectual Property Policy at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution. (Case Study)

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Developing an Intellectual Property Policy at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution. (Case Study)

Article excerpt


Research for Policy Development

In the late 1990's, Western Kentucky University (WKU) found that the patents policy in the Faculty Handbook was outdated. Senior administration emphasis on the integration of teaching and research had evolved new intellectual properties. The existing policy was found to be deficient because it did not comprehend a disclosure process, technology transfer and commercialization, copyrights, or Intellectual Property (IP) Committee membership that represented campus constituencies now interested in IP. The old policy was approved in the mid-1970's before the electronic age, and the IP Committee had not met regularly. Meanwhile, faculty creations needed attention, and the President turned to the Office of Sponsored Programs for leadership in the fall of 1998. To develop the new policy, the Provost reconstituted the Intellectual Property Committee (IPC) with strong faculty representation from the academic colleges, the dean of Graduate Studies and Research, an assistant vice president for Academic Affairs, a represe ntative of fiscal affairs, a patents attorney, and the director of the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), who chaired the committee. The Provost's charge was to develop a new policy that combined policies and procedures for both patents and copyrights.

This process took about two years and was approved by the Council of Academic Deans, the Faculty Senate, the President's Administrative Council, and the Board of Regents.

The Committee reviewed a number of documents, including state statutes and university intellectual property policies. Of much help were the policies at the University of Texas-Austin, Brigham Young University, the University of Washington, and the University of Louisville. They helped define the differences between traditional works that would not fall under the policy and nontraditional works that include ownership questions about electronic copyrights, software, graphics, online instruction, and web sites. In addition, the IPC surveyed fifty university intellectual property policies for royalty distribution percentages, devising a matrix that proved critical in resolving royalty distribution. The matrix incorporated the shares of the creator, the college, the department, the University general fund, and the OSP.

The twin questions of ethics and ownership were intertwined with the IPC's work. A number of recent works were consulted that dealt with control of IP, IP law, the culture of IP, and IP ownership (especially genes, software, databases, and technological know-how). In the copyright arena, an attorney expert in copyright law was brought to campus for a convocation and break-out sessions during the drafting of the policy. His presentation and thoughtful responses to ownership questions and real situations helped raise campus interest and serves as a constant reference for copyright matters.

The Campus Environment

Western Kentucky University is a predominantly undergraduate institution with 17,500 students and 600 regular faculty members. Five academic colleges contain over seventy undergraduate and forty graduate programs through the specialist degree. Several joint doctoral degrees are offered. Sponsored programs awards doubled to over $24M in the last five years with over $42M in proposals to federal, state, local, and nonprofit agencies. This growth renewed interest in intellectual property and was buttressed by the creation of state-funded research and public service centers and institutes which began to disclose creations. At the same time the University undertook an ambitious distance education initiative that increased interest in product ownership ranging from electronic courses to web sites for technical manuals, exams, and lectures. The faculty were especially concerned about copyright ownership, so distance education faculty who became busier creating web-based courses and teaching via interactive televisio n to our extended campus sites, were appointed to the IP Committee. …

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