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Intellectual Property FAQ
- What is intellectual property?
- Who owns the IP and what is the Bayh-Dole Act?
- What do you do if you have an idea?
- What is the Intellectual Property Committee (IPC)?
- What happens after you disclose to the IPC?
- Who is the inventor?
- What is a publication?
- What is a laboratory notebook?
- How can you publish and protect your ability to patent?
- How do you benefit from a patent?
- When do you use a CDA and an MTA?
- What about working with grad students?
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is the "tangible or intangible results of research, development, teaching, or other intellectual activity." (AR II-1.1-3 Intellectual Properties Policy and Procedures pdf) In other words, IP is any innovation or discovery conceived or developed by faculty, staff or students using University resources. "Use of University resources" is broad and includes all use of employee or student time, equipment, supplies or facilities and clinical practice. Even when no physical facilities have been used, an idea arising from your work is IP covered by this policy.
The University has the right to own all IP as defined above. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act gives universities the right to retain ownership of IP resulting from federally funded research. This right of ownership allows UK to protect your rights to use the IP and to continue to build on your research. UK safeguards not only your rights as the originator but also safeguards the IP as the University works to bring the IP into public use.
The University does not claim any ownership rights in the area known as "traditional products of scholarly activity." These work products, developed at the author's initiative, include journal articles, textbooks, reviews, works of art including musical compositions and traditional course materials. The University considers these items the unrestricted property of the author or originator.
What do you do if you have an idea?
It is the responsibility of each faculty member, staff member and student who develops IP to report it to UK's Intellectual Property Committee (IPC) by completing an online disclosure at uky.ttoportal.com. The Intellectual Property Development Office will schedule your presentation to the IPC. For a clinician who has an idea for a device or diagnostic, they should fill out the one-page, downloadable clinician disclosure form (see clinician innovation & commercialization) and return it to Dean Harvey.
What is the Intellectual Property Committee (IPC)?
The Intellectual Property Committee is a standing committee composed of faculty with a wide range of technical expertise. The IPC decides if UK has a legal ownership interest in a property and makes an initial determination of who the inventors are and if all work was conducted at UK. The IPC also determines if UK should pursue appropriate protection (under the name University of Kentucky Research Foundation) and if there is potential for commercialization.
Typically, the originator meets with the IPC to describe the innovation and answer questions. The IPC will notify the originator of UK's plans to pursue its legal interests in the IP. If the committee determines that UK has a legal interest in the IP, the Intellectual Property Development Office will work with outside patent counsel to determine the appropriate protection – trade secret, copyright or patent.
What happens after you disclose to the IPC?
Once the IPC has completed its review, the UK Office for Commercialization & Economic Development (UKCED) engages in a commercial assessment of the IP. Due to the time and substantial expense associated with patent prosecution, UKCED will take into account the coverage possible along with the commercial market in deciding whether or not to pursue patent prosecution. As a result of the review, not all IP will be patented. If the University does not pursue a patent and the research leading to the IP was not federally funded, the IP will be released to the faculty, staff or student inventor. If the research was federally funded, UKCED will work with the originator(s) to have the rights transferred to them by the federal agency that funded the research. If the research was industry sponsored, they have the right of first refusal.
Who is the inventor?
An inventor is one who conceives either in whole or in part the invention. An invention may have one or more inventors, and each inventor must be listed in the patent application. It is a question of law whether or not an individual is an inventor. Inventorship is strictly based on identifiable contributions to the patentable elements of an invention. Even someone who actively participated in a research project that resulted in an invention might not be a co-inventor for patent purposes.
What is a publication?
When asked if any "publication" has effectively described the invention, most researchers tend to think first of traditional forms of publications such as journal articles. To be on the safe side, however, you should consider most forms of communication – written, verbal or electronic – with any person outside the University to be a publication. Articles, abstracts (which may appear months before the article), electronic postings, student theses, poster presentations, PowerPoint presentations, grant proposals and any other uncontrolled dissemination of the information should be considered a publication.
What is a laboratory notebook?
A laboratory notebook is an important tool that provides a detailed record of a research project. The notebook is used for research management and can have important implications for issues ranging from intellectual property management to fraud prevention. A laboratory notebook should be a hardbound book with numbered pages in which no pages have been deleted or added. The cover should have the project name and the start and finish dates for the project. Entries in the notebook should be in ink and deletions should be done with a single line through the deleted material. It is good practice to sign and date the notebook on a daily basis and have someone familiar with the research, but not involved with the research, sign and date the notebook weekly. Electronic lab notebooks may be possible but must meet all requirements for the traditional notebook, and must ensure that it cannot be altered.
How can you publish and protect your ability to patent?
In a university setting, the desire to publish new results (in forums including posters, grants, presentations, abstracts, and electronic media) can limit or negate patent protection. Under United States law, a patent application must be filed within one year of the date of any "publication" that effectively describes the invention. Most foreign countries require that a patent application be filed before the date of any publication (unless a U.S. patent application has already been filed). If you have any questions regarding your publication, please contact the Intellectual Property Development Office, 859.218.6555.
How do you benefit from a patent?
The University licenses its intellectual property to business & industry and University start-up companies. Licensing can happen at the same time as patenting—UK does not need an issued patent to license its IP. Often UK inventors will license their own IP and develop it in a startup company.
If UK receives royalties from licensing, those royalties are shared (after patent costs are recovered) with the inventor (40%), the department (20%) and the college (20%). The remaining 20% is reinvested in the commercial development of university-based technologies and businesses through the UK Office for Commercialization & Economic Development.
A patent may also attract interest from industry or other collaborations leading to additional research funding.
When do you use a CDA and an MTA?
If you will be collaborating with industry and others outside the University on a project, you should first contact the Intellectual Property Development Office to determine if a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) should be instituted. The IPDO also negotiates material transfer agreements (MTA). You are required to contact the IPDO before any tangible research material (chemical or biological) leaves the University. In addition, the IPDO reviews MTAs for incoming materials. Both MTAs and CDAs provide additional protection for you and UK.
The Office of Sponsored Projects Administration (OSPA) is authorized by the University to negotiate and legally accept sponsored agreements. This includes clinical trial agreements and financial interest disclosures. OSPA also administers the conflict of interest policy.
What about working with grad students?
It is important to understand the role of the graduate student in your lab. It is possible that you will name a student as a co-inventor of your intellectual property. Note that the university will not accept a sponsored research agreement that does not allow the freedom to publish results. This would interfere with a student completing his or her degree requirement that the thesis or dissertation be placed in the library, in effect "publishing" it.
See the UK Faculty Handbook Research section for more on working with graduate students, research assistants, and postdocs.