Fear over IP proposals

April 2, 2004

Academics at Cambridge University will have to ask the authorities for permission to make money from their ideas under new intellectual property proposals, it was claimed this week.

Revised IP proposals were due to be published in the university's official journal, The Reporter , as The Times Higher went to press.

It is understood that they were endorsed by a majority of the university council earlier this month, despite opposition.

Critics said they would push for the proposals to be rejected at a meeting of the Regent House - the university's 3,000-strong governing body - on May 11.

One academic said that the proposals would see the university's Research Services Division exert "some level of control over most academics' side activities, such as publishing, invent-ing and business start-ups".

It was claimed that while academics would retain copyright ownership, the university would own the IP rights acquired by registering patents, plant-breeders' rights or by registering designs and trademarks.

The university would also hold a range of rights related to databases, typographical designs and sound recordings.

"The practical effect of these proposals is that most academics wishing to earn side income involving creative intellectual activity will be beholden to the university for permissions, licences or letters of comfort," one academic said.

"This will enable the university to demand equity in companies or shares of revenue.

"Many academics with no interest in business will findtheir work encumbered by IP claims that will involve them in extra bureaucracy, or make it harder for them to move," the academic added.

The university declined to comment on the details of the proposals before their official publication.

But a spokesman said: "Cambridge's IP rights policy has grown up and evolved over a number of years.

"As a top research institution that has a lot of complicated IP rights issues, the feeling has been that it needs to be investigated and standardised in fairness to the research staff and the university."

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

CRITICS' HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLES

* A professor of archaeology has a collection of Roman artefacts that he has built up over 20 years. He creates a database of his collection and its context. Under the proposals, the database will in future belong to the university, limiting his freedom to move elsewhere on retirement

* Two computer science lecturers write and maintain a compiler, whose unregistered trademark is made up of their names. The new regulations would empower the university to register that trademark and control its use in the future

* A engineering lecturer devises a course on semiconductor physics for Cambridge undergraduates. He is invited to give a lecture during the vacation at a US university for a fee. However, his slides were made on a university-owned computer, so Cambridge can use the typographical rights to veto his use of them elsewhere unless he hands over a share of the fee.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments