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Ethics and technology transfer do not always go hand-in-hand. Share your thoughts and experiences here.

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Academic Inventors' Bill of Rights

By Alan Bentley - Director of Commercialization, Cleveland Clinic
Read and comment on Renee Kaswan's proposed Academic Inventors' Bill of Rights >>
Download the Academic Inventors' Bill of Rights Proposals >>

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all faculty are created equal, that they are endowed by their Institutions of High Education with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are transparency of process, a voice in disposition of intellectual property, and the pursuit of fair dealing. That to secure these rights, Universities are instituted among researchers, deriving their just powers from the consent of the faculty… (adapted from Declaration of Independence)


Most technology commercialization professional understand the importance of building strong partnerships with our faculty innovators. Though we understand that service to faculty is a primary mission, it is sometimes easy to forget that faculty inventors may not see it the same way. What one may see as a straight forward stepwise commercialization process, another may see as a series of obstacles to overcome to achieve commercialization.

Part of the reason the productivity of our industry has been called into question of late - and new models such as the ‘inventor free agent’ concept have achieved some traction - has been the result of isolated system failures in working with faculty inventors. The creation of a standardized “Inventors’ Bill of Rights” that all academic institutions can adopt would be a powerful message to our faculty that they are indeed an integral part of the commercialization process, service to faculty is indeed an integral part of the process, and commercialization is indeed a true partnership.




1. Faculty and students have the right to freedom of expression, and the right to teach and publish their research shall not be abridged by Intellectual Property Policy. Universities shall ensure that technology commercialization activities (including the filing of patent applications) shall not unreasonably delay publication of research results.

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2. Inventors shall be entitled to timely disposition of their inventions, and to obtain access to inventions for which the university elects to discontinue commercialization effort, without onerous restrictions or obligations to the university that would act as disincentives to commercialize.

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3. All rights to intellectual property which are not made in the course of an Inventor’s employment as a university researcher (including under federal, state or foundation grants, or research contracts), or otherwise made using significant university resources, shall be retained by the Inventor.

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4. Inventors shall be fully informed of commercialization efforts, including negotiations, and shall have the right to approve any exclusive license or amendment reasonably anticipated to affect such inventors’ interests prior to execution.

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5. The University that undertakes the promotion of intellectual property assigned by an Inventor must act as a good steward of taxpayer money, and use best efforts to promote the interests of all stakeholders (namely the Institution, Inventors, and the Public).

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6. All Inventors (including students and other subordinate positions) shall have equal right to Institutional protection of their interests in their Intellectual Property regardless of academic rank or position.

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7. Universities must establish and publish transparent practices and procedures comprising their commercialization processes. Inventors may be made privy to all records and communications associated with their inventions.

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8. Inventors may consult with outside firms (subject to management of conflict of commitment and interest issues) apart from obligations to the university; to the extent such consultation does not involve substantial unreimbursed use of university facilities.

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9. Inventors have a right to appeal disputes related to implementation of IP policy, or to activity related to commercialization efforts, preferably to a standing IP committee comprised of faculty and administration personnel authorized to arbitrate such disputes.

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10. Any changes to intellectual property or commercialization policies shall be approved by the appropriate faculty run governance body, such as a Faculty Senate.

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Read and comment on Renee Kaswan's proposed Academic Inventors' Bill of Rights >>

Download the Academic Inventors' Bill of Rights Proposals >>
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