Trying to make the present assignment problem really simple

I’ve been working through the shift to present assignments.  There’s so much bad advice for universities out there.  You’d think the attorneys writing their blog posts and newsletter columns could at least make an effort to get it right.  The corporate world is different.  The corporate world doesn’t have, generally, faculty governance, tenure, or academic freedom; it doesn’t have appointment letters in place of employment agreements and it doesn’t use administrative policy statements to try to create IP obligations, and for all that IP policy statements that start from the premise that research isn’t for the employer but for the public; it doesn’t encourage outside consulting, or open exchange of information; it doesn’t have federal grants under A-110; and the corporate world does have trade secrets and non-compete covenants, which universities generally don’t have.

Here then are five points that aim to get at the core of what’s going on.

  1. Universities have to follow policy to change policy, especially where personal ownership interests (such as inventions) are at stake, and a change to present assignments is a change in policy.
  2. The change now to present assignments cannot be based on Bayh-Dole compliance or Stanford v Roche–neither has anything to do with it.
  3. The change has to include changes elsewhere in policy that are affected by the change, such as scope, review, and waiver language.
  4. The issue of consulting obligations + return to university research is not addressed by an upfront at employment present assignment.
  5. The policy change that is indicated has to do with when investigators make commitments tied to specific research projects relative to any prior personal commitments.
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