IP rules will 'ensure academic freedom'

April 23, 2004

Cambridge academics would have the right to publish their discoveries free of charge for the public good even if the university felt there was money to be made by selling them commercially, according to proposals on intellectual property rights.

The draft rules, which would regulate how Cambridge academics exploit their ideas commercially, were not intended to generate "vast amounts of money" for the university, senior Cambridge figures said this week.

Ian Leslie, a member of the Cambridge working group on the proposals, said:

"We've taken a bit more care than some other places have to ensure that there is the basic academic freedom. If someone feels they are doing something for the public good and they believe that the best way for that to be exploited is to put it out unencumbered, they can do so."

Critics said the proposals undermined academic freedom and gave the university "some level of control" over academics' side activities. They are preparing to set out their opposition at a meeting of the Regent House - the university's 3,000-strong governing body - on May 11.

But Cambridge defended its proposals, saying they offered "clarity and protection" for academics and the institution alike.

Under the rules, academics would retain copyright ownership and the university would own the IP rights acquired by registering patents, plant-breeders' rights or by registering designs and trademarks.

The income from the commercial exploitation of an idea would be split between the inventor, department and university in different proportions.

William Cornish, who chaired the working group, said: "We are putting forward proposals for genuine discussion, and there will undoubtedly be further changes."

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