Traditionally, universities have been associated with two functions – teaching and research. Teaching involves dissemination of knowledge, which usually did not result in the creation of new knowledge. On the other hand, research involves the creation of new knowledge, which in turn leads to a valuable output. The entrepreneurial function of a university, wherein the university dons the role of an entrepreneur or becomes a platform for entrepreneurial activity did not exist traditionally.
The question that follows a creation or output emanating out of a research activity is – whether it should be protected by some kind of intellectual property (thereby making it private) or should it be freely disseminated (wherein it becomes accessible to public)? Typically, the call on keeping the output public or private will be dictated by the terms of the funding which the organisation receives. A one-size-fits-all approach does not apply here. If the university decides to protect its research output, then Intellectual Property Rights become the way forward. When knowledge emanating out of research manifests itself into products or services which people could buy and use, protection of intellectual property becomes a necessity. Patents on technology, do not protect the knowledge per se but they protect the products and services emanating out of knowledge.
In a university setup, the research output can be protected either by publishing or by filing IP. However, publishing before patenting kills the novelty associated with the research output and deems it non-patentable. Thus, it is always recommended to test the patentability before publishing. The Intellectual Property Rights that protect the research output of a university predominantly include Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Design Rights. In order to elicit, manage and to commercialise IP, an IP Centre is required to be setup in a university. Apart from the aforementioned functions, the IP Centre is also responsible for educating its staff and students on IP, promoting and encouraging IP generation, hiring quality IP personnel, maintaining records, filing and prosecuting.
To translate the objectives of an IP Centre into reality, there must be definite guidelines to dictate its functioning and there has to be a clear indication of its mission and goals. All this is usually captured in a document called the IP Policy, the Intellectual Property (Rights) policy. An IP Policy can perform the following activities for an institution –
- Synchronize: An institution generally has different departments engaged in different projects and research. An IP Policy dictates the terms for commercialisation of research, which will be shared with everyone, thereby ensuring that everyone is at the same level when it comes to research and its commercialisation.
- Aligning IP centre’s mission with that of the institution: An institution might have different objectives in terms of its teaching and research. It is important for the IP centre to have its mission in accordance with that of the institution. An IP Policy ensures the same.
- Influence on quality and quantity of research output: An IP Policy is a document that captures good practices and is seen as a roadmap to future. As the IP Policy mentions about the commercialisation of research output, it acts as an incentive for the faculty and researchers, thereby influencing the quality and quantity of the output.
- Spell out the mission statement: An IP Centre typically involves in service and contributes to economic development (by creating jobs and growth avenues), apart from acting as a facilitator between the institution and the industry. The mission statement of this IP Centre is captured in the IP Policy.
From a bird’s eye view, a typical IP Policy consists of –
In a nutshell, IP Policy is a visionary document that captures the objectives, mission and goals of an IP Centre and lays down a protocol for the protection of IP emanating out of the educational institution. It is at the heart of an institution’s vision, long-term and short-term goals, credo and dreams that sets in motion a well thought out process, for their execution. Hence, a one-size-fits-all approach (of copy-pasting clauses & articles from various institutions) would simply not work, because every institution has its own philosophy, unique strengths, opportunities and budgetary constraints, which need to be factored in to tailor their IPR Policy in a manner that renders it a purposeful and effective guiding document.