Thursday, December 23, 2010

How knowledge commercialisation and commons can be friends

James and I (primary authors of the IP proposal for UC) were invited by the University of Canberra's Office of Development and Engagement, to present at the KCA Annual Conference in Canberra, 11 November 2010.
Throughout the 2 day conference, the key points of the proposal were discussed with many participants at the conference, all being IP Officers at Australian Universities, some being IP lawyers at Australian Universities. All initially responded with skepticism to the proposal, but discussion lead to the realisation of one critical benefit of this proposed policy:
By setting the over all standard copyright at the university to Creative Commons Attribution, staff, students and 3rd parties who are working on projects of commercial or other sensitivity, are compelled to opt out, thereby notifying the IP Officer and helping that office better target its services to projects most in need of close management. In other universities, the standard practice has been to claim university ownership over all work, and to restrict all work, believing it to be the best way to manage risks and capture commercialisable IP and investment opportunities. This approach compels no signal to the IP Office however, leaving them to use other, more fallible means to target and initiate their services, inefficiently spread across the vast majority of work in a university that will never need commercialisation or other IP management services.
Other critics mentioned that this proposal concerns itself primarily with copyright over patents. This may need addressing, because it is our belief that patents are addressed here as an end point, and all work leading to a patent, often involving many years of work, documentation and communications, are governed by copyright. The risk averse university will try to limit expressions of work deemed patentable, sometimes years after a project has begun, only to discover a tangle of due diligence not followed. Their restrictions often retard scientific progress by imposing non disclosure or other confidentiality agreements, and copyrights and other restrictions that are unacceptable or problematic for the scientists and their collaborators. This policy proposal does not discourage such management of IP however, rather it makes such restrictions and protections the responsibility of the people who own the IP and who first recognise the need. All work created in the lead up to such a decision point, if Creative Commons Attribution is assumed, does not compromise or limit work continuing in a restricted arrangement. Arguably it assists with IP discipline and due diligence, and possibly assists in the development of a prior art evidence base, should such a defense ever be needed.

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