Editorial: If 'Creative Thought Matters' then protect it in the new IP policy

Posted by the Editorial Board

Allow students to retain their rights to intellectual property. Skidmore is behind its peer and aspirant schools when it comes to legal policies. The College has been working to update its policies to safeguard legal action against the school. Creation of an intellectual property policy is being considered. Intellectual property rights issues have been a point of contention between students and institutions throughout the U.S. At our institution we should ensure that we protect student creativity.

For many reasons, it is important that Skidmore adopt guidelines concerning the ownership of copywritten, trademarked and patented material. Many organizations that give funds and grants for research require that the institutions have a clear intellectual property rights policy.

Skidmore does not produce large volumes of patents, especially compared to technical institutions. However, with an increasing entrepreneurial spirit cropping up among Skidmore's student body, it is necessary that the administration and the faculty reach a fair agreement on intellectual property rights.

Patents created by Skidmore faculty in their capacities as employees should be shared fairly between the inventor and the school. This should be done in a way that incentivizes creativity and provides the school with a funding source for further research.

However, when developing this policy, the College should draw a clear distinction between faculty, who work under contract with the college, and students, who are paying to attend classes.

It is imperative that we protect student innovation. Nothing would stifle the creative thought of students more than a surprise phone call from the administration informing them that their patents now belong to the school.

It should be assumed that student work and innovations belong to students.  The administration should have no intrinsic or inherent claim on student work, especially work that is done by students on their own time.

The school might have a claim to patents developed by students if, and only if, the school creates a contract with a student with the express purpose of sharing a patent.

In developing the final version of Skidmore's intellectual property rights policy, students need to be included in a meaningful way, and these concerns regarding the involvement and limits of the College's claims on student property must be accounted for. Students should be on the board that writes this policy and the administration should put this up to the student body for a vote.

In whatever policy the school eventually adopts, the interest of students should be paramount. The extent to which the policy protects student innovation will be a good indication of Skidmore's commitment to its motto, "Creative Thought Matters."

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