Ownership of inventions

The rights employees have to things they invent while at work is something that has been an on-going issue for some time. Within Universities it is even more complicated. News today that in Australia, the rights might lie squarely with academic researchers. Here are some words from the judgment:

“Absent express agreement to the contrary, rights in relation to inventions made by academic staff in the course of research and whether or not they are using university resources, will ordinarily belong to the academic staff,” Justice French said.

“The position is different if staff have a contractual duty to try to produce inventions. But a duty to research does not carry with it a duty to invent.”

I haven’t read the judgment but it would be interesting to know whether the research had been funded by government grant or not. While this allocation of property rights might create strong incentives for researchers to pick out their inventions and commercialise them, I worry that it may also raise the price of such commercialisation activities and not increase the flow of knowledge from universities.

2 thoughts on “Ownership of inventions”

  1. Why should a book be different a computer program or an engineering design. If it acceptable for an academic author to get royalties and own the copyright on a book written in his or her own subject and often a text book in the subject they teach why shouldn’t they own a computer program or an engineering design or a medical patent. Clearly if you allow one form of intellectual output to be owned by the academic you should allow others.

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  2. The cost of commercialisation will not go up if you leave the ownership with the inventors. Universities have an unrealistic view of the value of things worth commercialising than individual academics. The flow of information from Universities (and the CSIRO and other publicly funded institutions) decreases as soon as these institutions think there may be a dollar involved and heaven forbid an academic might make a fortune.
    The best strategy for a University is to let the academs try to commercialise their inventions using external organisations. The successful ones will give money to the University because they want to not because they have to.

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