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New patent policy requires new patent agreements to be signed

STANFORD -- All Stanford University faculty, staff and graduate students will be required this year to sign a new Patent and Copyright Agreement, assigning to Stanford all rights to inventions generated with the use of university resources.

The requirement was recommended as part of the new Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest that was approved last April by the Faculty Senate, and the new University Patent Policy, approved by the Board of Trustees last June.

A fundamental principle underlying both policies is that Stanford resources should be used for the education, research, scholarship and service missions of the university, according to Charles Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy.

"To promote scientific objectivity and minimize potential conflicts of interest, ownership of any inventions generated with university resources must be assigned to Stanford," Kruger said.

Stanford's former policy required anyone who worked, or expected to work, on sponsored projects to complete the Patent and Copyright Agreement (SU-18). The new policy requires this agreement as a condition of employment at Stanford in any capacity, and it applies to all work done at the university, regardless of the source of funding.

People who previously signed patent agreements still need to sign the new forms, since the new policy basically changes the agreement.

Kruger said similar patent policies are common at other academic and research institutions, as well as in private industry. At Stanford, royalties are shared with one-third going to the inventor, one- third to the inventor's department or laboratory, and the other third to the associated school.

Stanford does not claim ownership of all intellectual property created on the campus. Some creations that are exempted include popular non-fiction, novels, poems, musical compositions, non-patentable software and "other forms of artistic imagination which are not institutional works."

While many employees may not think of themselves as inventors, it is impossible to limit inventiveness to particular job classifications or academic status, Kruger said. For that reason, Stanford requires, as do most research universities, that all employees sign a patent and copyright agreement.

In addition to current faculty, staff and graduate students, visiting scholars using Stanford facilities to conduct research, sponsored or otherwise, will be asked to sign the agreement.

People who are not employed by Stanford but are at the university to make use of the research facilities may have a pre-existing patent agreement with their employer and can request a review of their situation, Kruger said. Those requests, with the endorsement of the department manager or chair, should be directed to Kruger's office.

Ann George, assistant dean of research, met in early January with staff affairs officers and other supervisors from both academic and administrative areas to explain the policy. Those supervisors will be asked to copy and distribute the forms, which will be arriving in interdepartmental mail, during the month. The completed forms need to be returned to the Office of Technology Licensing by March 31.

A special electronic mail account has been established to field questions about the new policy. The address is "PATENT@Forsythe." In addition, people with access to the Stanford database Portfolio can download the following documents from the Research Policy folder: "Inventions, Patents and Licensing" (which includes the board-approved policy), "Copyright Policy" and "Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest."



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