Intellectual property refers to rights associated with intellectual creations, such as inventions, literary works, computer code, designs, names, images, and artistic works. For example, a patent is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention. Patents, plant variety protections, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are commonly recognized types of intellectual property.
OSU’s current Intellectual Property Policy became effective April 12, 2023.
Updating the policy brings OSU in line with national best practices for management of university intellectual property. The new policy provides flexibility in licensing procedures, clarifies faculty ownership of certain education and professional materials, and eliminates antiquated procedures related to the old Oregon University System. The former policy was established by the Oregon University System in the early 1980’s as an Internal Management Directive (IMD). The IMD’s contain several clear errors; limited conformity to Federal law and regulations; multiple and antiquated procedures improperly embedded within policy; language that limits licensing flexibilities that are currently national best practices; and ambiguity in ownership of educational and professional materials. The new policy allows OSU to better manage its intellectual policy for the benefit of OSU, OSU researchers, and our external stakeholders.
The new policy
Ownership of intellectual property created at OSU is set forth in OSU’s policy on intellectual property (University Policy 06-200). Except for academic works, OSU owns the intellectual property made by employees at OSU. Generally, OSU also owns material embodiments of inventions, such as biological materials and prototypes. Academic works, including scholarly and aesthetic works, are covered by copyrights that are generally retained by the OSU faculty who create them.
In most cases, non-employee students own the intellectual property they make at OSU. However, students may be required to assign to OSU intellectual property made with substantial use of OSU resources or as part of research projects with contractual obligations related to intellectual property. Subject to OSU’s acceptance, students may choose to assign to OSU intellectual property developed at OSU, even if such assignment is not required. When a student assigns intellectual property to OSU, they are treated in a similar manner to OSU employees.
Protecting intellectual property maximizes the impact of research conducted at OSU by ensuring the public and research sponsors fully benefit from their investment in research. Most federal, state, industry, and even non-profit sponsors of research require intellectual property management as a condition of funding research. Properly managing intellectual property and securing intellectual property rights also allows OSU faculty and researchers to fully benefit from intellectual property created at OSU.
OSU manages its intellectual property with the intent of maximizing OSU’s research, innovation, economic, and societal impact. Maximizing impact may include securing intellectual property rights and licensing those rights to existing or new companies that are well-positioned to use those rights to bring new products and services to market. New plant varieties, software solutions, green technologies, and life-changing therapeutics are just a few examples of new products that depend on intellectual property rights. By exclusively or non-exclusively licensing intellectual property rights to companies, OSU can provide the access or exclusivity companies need to raise money, invest in development, and ultimately commercialize new products and services. Careful management of OSU intellectual property also ensures that OSU meets its intellectual property obligations to federal, industry, and other research sponsors and collaborators.
Faculty and other OSU researchers who develop intellectual property as part of their research activities benefit in several ways. The licensing of intellectual property rights to companies often generates revenue for OSU through license fees and royalties. OSU has a generous revenue sharing practice, under which the creators of OSU intellectual property receive a share of the licensing revenue. Protecting and managing intellectual property creates an entrepreneurial research environment that attracts high quality students who are interested in both pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and solving real world problems. As a condition of funding for most federal, state, industry, and even non-profit sponsors, intellectual property management is also an important component of supporting and expanding research funding available to OSU faculty.
OSU-owned intellectual property arising from research and development activity at OSU is managed by the OSU Advantage team in the OSU Research Office. OSU Advantage team members work with researchers to assist with timely reporting of inventions and other intellectual property arising from OSU activities. An OSU Advantage team member will work with you to a) evaluate your reported discovery for potential intellectual property protection and commercial potential, b) pursue intellectual property protection and licensing opportunities, and c) ensure obligations to sponsors and collaborators are fully met.
OSU researchers are encouraged to publish or otherwise share the results of their research. Publications and seamless collaborations are essential for faculty successes and a means for dissemination of innovation, promotion, and acknowledgment of the important research at OSU. OSU Advantage works within the publication timeframes of our faculty to facilitate the publication process while also securing intellectual property rights as needed. In order to ensure the OSU Advantage team can secure intellectual property rights for your discovery or creation, contact them before any public sharing of the details of what you discovered or created; even if your research results are already published, contact the OSU Advantage team as there still may be time to protect and license your work.
From time to time, OSU employees choose to waive a portion of their revenue share to a department, college, or program of their choice. OSU appreciates the generosity of faculty and employees who choose to support OSU programs. An OSU employee who is entitled to receive a share of revenue received by OSU from the licensing and commercialization of intellectual property developed at OSU may waive any percentage of their share, provided such waiver is in accordance with the University Constructive Receipt policy. OSU has put policies in place to avoid any unintended tax consequences, but encourages OSU employees to always consult their own tax advisor.
Additional FAQs for faculty and students can be found here.