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July 8, 2002

New IP policy finalized

By MIchael Terrazas

Several years in the making, Emory’s revised intellectual property (IP) policy finally was approved by the Board of Trustees in June, giving the University a firm base from which to deal with the increasingly more complicated IP issues that have crept into multimedia publication and scientific research.

For several years, thorny issues of IP ownership have popped up not only at Emory but around the country, as researchers in higher education develop work that either incorporates brand-new technologies or results in significant economic returns when brought to marketplace, or both. Under Emory’s old IP policy, the University sometimes was ill-equipped to deal with situations, either because the policy simply could not accommodate technological advances or because there was no resolution process if a grievance arose.

The new IP policy continues to support the traditional rights of researchers and scholars in the field of academic publication. It also recognizes that significant investment in IP on the part of University should result in some measure of economic return.

“This policy is fairly standard now with many other institutions’ policies,” said Frank Stout, vice president for Research Administration. Stout, in cooperation with the Office of the Provost, has been instrumental in guiding the IP policy through the revision process since he came to Emory in fall 2000. It was one of the first charges he received from former Provost Rebecca Chopp, he said, and the work has continued under the direction of interim Provost Howard Hunter.

Under the new policy, Emory continues to cede full copyright of scholarly publications to the author. This includes the traditional media of books and book chapters, journal articles, papers, etc., and also new media such as CD-ROMs or other electronic textbooks. The exceptions come when the University invests a significant amount of resources into the work; for example, if the Information Technology Division provides substantial technical support to a professor creating an electronic textbook, Emory could assert co-ownership rights.

Once the University does assert such rights, there is a sliding scale of revenue distribution. Gross revenue up to $25,000 goes entirely to the creator; net revenues from $25,001 to $4 million are split, with 33 percent going to the creator, 33 percent to the creator’s department, 10 percent to the school and 24 percent to the University. For net revenues over $4 million, the creator gets 25 percent, the department 33 percent, the school 17 percent and the University 25 percent.

The numbers are a change from Emory’s old policy, when creators received 40 percent of net revenues across the board. However, Stout said, the new policy likely will result in the majority of Emory researchers receiving more money, since very few IP “inventions” strike gold to the tune of millions of dollars. Keeping all of the first $25,000, even with the lower percentages above that figure, often will translate into more return for researchers than keeping 40 percent of total net revenue.

Emory’s peer institutions have similar policies with a range of differences in revenue distribution percentages and destinations. Duke, for example, slices the pie into more pieces, with the inventor’s lab, the technology transfer office and a teaching fund for postdocs all getting a share.

“The University share of royalties will be used to support research in accordance with the requirements of the Bayh-Dole Act, but it will not be restricted to any specific subject area of research other than as may be required by Bayh-Dole,” said Hunter, referring to the 1980 federal law governing university technology transfer.

“If you take a look at most institutions around the United States, we’re still probably in the upper third in terms of giving a significant amount of income back to the faculty member,” Stout said.

The new IP policy also outlines a grievance process for disputes between researchers and the University; the Provost’s Intellectual Property Committee will be an ad hoc, three-person group drawn from the advisory council for the vice president of Research Administration. Hunter said the provost would consult with Faculty Council to select committee members with the appropriate expertise for a given case.

The IP policy was developed over several years and in collaboration with faculty, including groups such as Faculty Council. The administration held several open meetings with faculty to discuss the policy’s many drafts, and the most current draft was kept posted for review on the provost’s office website. The final policy also is available for review at