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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Intellectual property protection: Necessity for the innovative student

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Kirin Daniels/The Cougar

Many outgoing graduates don’t know about the intellectual property of the institution they attended as they venture into different industries. They contribute their ideas to the organizations, unaware of intellectual property protection.

“Intellectual property,” according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, refers to products of the mind, including inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images that are commercially used.

While it’s fabulous to be involved in a university reaching creative heights with terrific inventions and innovations, lack of protection of IP will stifle the creativity and result in exploitation of resources.

The overlap of various fields of technology and their legal protection is gray. The least one could do is give due credit, acknowledge the source, respect it, value it and purchase it — and the buck doesn’t stop there.

The WIPO website provides guidelines on developing IP protection and policy for educational institutions. Often, the need to “protect” inventions and other IP is now at the forefront of pursuits. Of course, in a Bob Dylan-esque way: the times, they’re changin’.

A good collaboration between an academic institution and research and development systems requires a policy, procedure and structured approach to developing an IP portfolio — an assimilation of patents, copyrights and trademarks for the institution’s record.

There are also trade secrets. The “monkey selfie” couldn’t be copyrighted because a human didn’t take the picture. Napster crossed the line between fair use and copyright infringement when it came to music sharing.

It’s what this generation would proclaim as “#win” these days. For the music industry, for the IP, it’s a win-all scenario.

“Look at Apple’s iWatch and iPhone 6,” said law graduate student Yusra Khalid. “The release could have gathered humongous media attention, but at the bottom of all the paparazzi and the attention seeking and evading gimmicks, Apple remains an illustration of the tensions that often arise between complementors.”

Apple depends on a complicated system for reporting substantial gains, full of regulations and restrictions that are often scoffed at by application developers. Since Apple is a closed-source system, it draws a lot of criticism from developers and inventors. Despite Apple’s system, its products continue to attract attention due to their quality.

Institutions with a diverse portfolio of IP often have good industrial relations, meaning students graduating from these schools would have sufficient experience in their field.

For UH students, the University has the Office of Intellectual Property Management housed in the division of research. OIPM is led by Technology Transfer Associate Vice President and Vice Chancellor Mark Clarke, who delivered a lecture on university technology transfer in the spring lecture series for the course “IP Strategy and Management.”

“Encouraging the creation of IP at UH helps broaden the research base of our faculty and students,” Clarke said. “This also provides a variety of funding opportunities for our faculty in the applied research space, while creating relationships with industry partners that can lead to student internships and careers for our graduates.”

Clarke also said that the UH System has a comprehensive policy when it comes to IP, and it includes both patents and copyrights.

“When it comes to revenue generated by commercialization of UH IP, 40 percent of the revenue generated goes to the inventors, who are normally faculty members but sometimes students as well,” he said.

The remainder goes to the academic unit of the inventors and the University to be invested in infrastructure to support additional activities that promote technology commercialization.

“Applied research and technology transfer are critical to the future success of the University,” Clarke said. “By creating an innovation ecosystem that combines inventors and entrepreneurs from both inside UH and the surrounding business community, we create opportunities for our faculty and students that did not exist in the past.”

UH’s efforts in this area have recently been recognized at the national level with the designation of UH as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.

Additionally, when all of this IP protection is in place, it offers the answer to questions of who owns what, and that means more clarity and less controversy.

Students, faculty and especially the inventors at an academic institution should care about this because none of the patent or trademark holders can afford the implications of an infringement suit if their invention or brainchild is illegally exploited by a troll.

Opinion columnist Valli Challa is a law graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].

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