Intellectual property rules ruffle feathers

May 25, 2001

Joint research projects between European Union universities and industries are often hindered by shortcomings in EU internet intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation, a report by the European Commission has claimed.

IPR Aspects of Internet Collaborations gives suggestions on further improving electronic IPR laws, which have already been reformed this year.

The paper, which resulted from a commission workshop held earlier this year in Brussels, claims that the restrictions imposed by EU and national model contracts increase tensions between the academic world, which usually wants to publish research findings, and industry, with its need to commercially exploit discoveries, keeping them secret in the meantime.

Workshop participants said that these problems were compounded where research arrangements involved the use of a shared database, "where information from all parties is easily available". It suggested making model contracts more flexible, including fewer obligatory clauses.

One recommendation agreed by IPR experts attending the workshop was that research partners should be given "maximum scope to deal with the complexity and range of possible structures and IPR provisions".

Another recommendation suggested that research collaborations be given a selection menu of IPR models, ranging from a closed IPR regime favouring commercial development to an open system to boost academic discussion.

Some participants suggested that for publicly funded research, an open regime should apply, while for academic-industrial collaborations "with ultimate commercial applications", ownership agreements should be adapted to commercial exploitation.

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