New Intellectual Property policy under revision: After receiving negative feedback, the Committee on Intellectual Property to compose a second draft

Posted by Julia Leef

The administration recently decided to revise its initial proposal for an Intellectual Property policy to address the rights of patentable student or faculty inventions due to negative feedback received from students and faculty.

The IP policy draft clarifies a basis for the College planning a shared revenue resulting from patents that it had a significant hand in funding, providing resources ranging from departmental equipment to college computers, allowing it to take control of the patentable works and 50 percent of the royalty income. 

The policy also requires full disclosure of inventions, which the College will review to see if it wants to pursue the patent. If so, the College would retain the right to sell its portion of the invention and the inventor would need to pay a licensing fee to use the patent.

In addition, the policy would create an Intellectual Policy committee which would oversee the policies regarding the ownerships of patents and copyrights in works created using college resources.

This draft is no longer in effect, according to Dean of Faculty Beau Breslin, who said the committee would start over crafting a new policy that would better encourage entrepreneurship among the students and faculty.

"We heard that faculty, students and community members were concerned that we were not being generous to entrepreneurship, and as a result we went back to the drawing board," Breslin said. "The general direction is to be more generous to the creative thoughts and the entrepreneurship of the students and faculty than the previous draft suggested."

The administration initially presented the proposal to the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee, and then to the faculty last semester. After the administration deemed changes necessary, it established an IP working group comprised of members of the student body, the faculty and administration to review and revise the policy.

Ethan Flum '13, vice president of Financial Affairs on the Student Government Association, is one of the student members who expressed his dissatisfaction with the original policy.

"There needs to be more checks on the administration's actions," Flum said. "This policy was proposed as though it were mainly complete and ready to be implemented. It was only until there was real backlash on the part of faculty and students that they backed down on these details of the draft."

Flum said he found issues with the contrast in language between the introduction and the body of the document, as well as the disclosure for the invention, which he said would include everything from resources to the initial conversation about the idea, if held on campus. He cited Isaiah Crossman '13 and Matthew Miron '13, this year's winners of the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan competition, as an example. Their patentable invention, the iPhone application "Grumbul," would have been subject to college ownership had they developed it under the policy.

The specific changes for the revised draft have not yet been released, as Breslin said the committee is still in the initial stages of rewriting the policy. Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun, when approached on the subject, said she had not seen the most recent review of the proposed policy, but understood that the original was still under review.

Flum said students should be more involved in this process, especially on the proposed IP committee, as they also will be affected by the new policy.

"Students need to be way more involved," Flum said. "As it stands now, no students are on the proposed IP committee. This is a committee that reviews disclosure forms, which in my view are way too long and extensive. Also, the committee is the only body that has the power to propose changes to the policy," he said, lamenting the lack of checks from the student body or faculty.

Flum said that as of 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, the IP working group had discussed significant changes regarding the differentiation between normal and non-normal support as well as the structure of the proposed IP committee.

The working group will continue to meet until June 1, after which it will reconvene at the start of the fall semester. Breslin said he hopes to have a new draft by that time, the proposal for which would go out in October. Should the policy pass, the IP working group will disband.

"They've been understanding of the students and faculty concerns, but just the simple fact that this policy was post-legal review, shows there is a huge disconnect between the administration and student body," Flum said, adding that he knew several students who said they would sue the school before giving them control over their ideas.

"When this process is done, I presume it will be an acceptable policy, but it is the responsibility of the Skidmore community, both students and staff, to make sure of that."

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