Regents approve policy to protect University’s intellectual property

Kristin Gustafson

Rochester, Minn. — Regents approved an intellectual property policy Thursday that defines profits and ownership of University inventions, theories or course materials, protecting both the University and creators of the property.
The approval comes two days after the University announced an estimated $300 million settlement with pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome. The University claimed an anti-AIDS drug manufactured by the company contains compounds patented by a University researcher.
The new policy would not have changed the legal outcome of that case, said Christine Maziar, vice president of research and dean of the Graduate School.
Under the Glaxo Wellcome settlement, the University will pay one-third of the royalty to Robert Vince, the professor who developed the anti-HIV drug, and his research colleague, Mei Hua. The other two-thirds go directly to the University under both the old and new policies. Only minor differences in distribution would be affected.
Maziar presented the policy to the Board of Regents after consulting with University faculty, general counsel, administrators, graduate students and grants-management officials.
After the University Senate approved the policy this spring by a unanimous vote, the policy was reviewed by University officials, including administration and general counsel. Thursday’s vote made adoption of the policy official.
Under the plan, the University maintains ownership of intellectual property created using University resources under most circumstances.
The first exception — and probably the most important to University faculty members — is called regular academic work product, said David Hamilton, professor of genetics and cell biology. Generally, this includes class material or curriculum used by faculty or graduate students.
“If I produce a Web site for my work, it’s mine,” Hamilton said. “At many other institutions, it is theirs.”
Mazair said the new policy encourages faculty members and graduate students to use instructional technologies like the Internet and Web sites.
Another exemption includes sponsored research, contractual agreements and consulting activities, which have their own requirements.
The policy also addresses discrepancies in software patents. Under the older policy, scientific software was not patented. “It made much more sense to treat all University intellectual property the same way,” Mazair said.
Most faculty seem to approve the new policy, Hamilton said.
Mazair said research universities and other colleges from around the country have already asked her for copies. She said the University looked for the best intellectual property policies in the nation but did not model it after any specific policy.
“I would have to say ours is the best,” Mazair said.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.