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Universities Patenting More Student Ideas

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the thanks-for-the-research dept.

Patents 383

theodp writes "Working as a NASA intern, grad student Erez Lieberman had a eureka moment, resulting in an algorithm that detects whether a person is standing correctly or is off balance. Unfortunately, MIT liked it so much they decided to patent it. Seeking permission to use his own idea for his iShoe startup, which develops products like insoles to address the problems of seniors, Lieberman was told no problem — as long as he promised a hefty royalty and forked over a $75,000 upfront payment. Whether or not students are aware of it, the NYTimes reports that most universities own inventions created by students that were developed using a 'significant' amount of schools resources. Colleges and universities once obtained fewer than 250 patents a year, but that was before the Bayh-Dole Act gave them ownership of inventions developed through federally financed research. Now they acquire about 3,000 a year, and in 2006 licensing fees and equity in spinoff companies totaled at least $45B — research powerhouses like Stanford and NYU pocketed $61M and $157M, respectively."

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Non-profit? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318485)

Perhaps a non-profit should step in or be formed to provide resources to students to develop their ideas, and only ask for the student to pay back expenses + 1-5% if their idea strikes gold. Perfect? Hardly. But it's a great starting point. You hear that Bill Gates/Warren Buffet? Fund this idea! Throw a cool mil into the pot to see where it goes. My price is a beer over lunch =)

Re:Non-profit? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318491)

I'm glad I don't have a whole country full of deceitful, greedy kikes stealing all my water and land anywhere near me. Fucking Jews can't just live in peace. They have to steal other people's land. Our national economy is collapsing from the Jewbanks doing their usual Jewthing. You see, with Jews, you lose. That's how THEY win. They WIN by making YOU lose. Let's lose the Jews.

Re:Non-profit? (3, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318539)

Dude, you never go full retard.

Re:Non-profit? (2, Funny)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318631)

He's didn't. I'm sure he can go lower.

Re:Non-profit? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318683)

I'm glad I don't have a whole country full of deceitful, greedy kikes stealing all my water and land anywhere near me. Fucking Jews can't just live in peace. They have to steal other people's land. Our national economy is collapsing from the Jewbanks doing their usual Jewthing. You see, with Jews, you lose. That's how THEY win. They WIN by making YOU lose. Let's lose the Jews.

Wir mussen die Juden ausrotten!

Re:Non-profit? (0, Troll)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318721)

Do you liek mudkipz?

If yes, dont you got a chanology protest to go to?

Re:Non-profit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318753)

Go back to 4chan, ensign wapanese cock-chugging faggot.

Re:Non-profit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318765)

Indeed. Read it and weep. [heretical.com]

Re:Non-profit? (0, Redundant)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318493)

AC = Me. Why the hell did I click Post Anonymously? Ahh, because it's 3:30am and I've been up 26 hours.

Re:Non-profit? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318513)

You anti-Semitic bastard.

Re:Non-profit? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318973)

Some might say you have too much to do?

Take a break, have a Kit Kat.

Re:Non-profit? (5, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318645)

I think a better idea might be to force federally-funded schools to do something similar to that. If the government is giving a researcher/professor/whatever a grant from taxes based on his or her past accomplishments, the university gets a huge chunk of it - unless I'm mistaken (and I very well could be.) For the university to then get whatever comes out of that is fundamentally stupid. From my experience, the university does nothing besides initially invest in the researchers. Well, that's not exactly true, they give me parking tickets occasionally too. I should say I'm a grad student, so I'm somewhat talking out of my ass here, and I might be biased (parking tickets!!!) but from what I can tell, the university gets more than their fair share.

Re:Non-profit? (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318867)

How can that be legal? I pay to go to university (admittedly in the UK) - the idea that I'm paying a university to let me create ideas for them is disgusting.

Re:Non-profit? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319001)

Here in Finland, universities are non-profit and thus have no need to patent their students' inventions. Yet another problem that socializing education solves if done well.

Re:Non-profit? (2, Interesting)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319005)

Once upon a time this was the role that educational institutions vaguely resembled.

Unfortunately such entities are "inefficient" and "bureaucratic".

This is now a patent pending. (-1, Troll)

alexandreracine (859693) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318487)

First!

Exploitation (4, Insightful)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318507)

The stupid exploit the smart.

Re:Exploitation (5, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318989)

The stupid exploit the smart.

Please. Most university faculty are a looong way from stupid. That said, while I understand the argument that university resources are being used in the creation of these "inventions" (ideas), surely the fact that THE STUDENTS ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR USE OF THESE RESOURCES should mean that they owe the university nothing, and anything outside of normal coursework is theirs to call their own.

Re:Exploitation (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319031)

Wat?

Think of your degree of stupidity as a reflection of your inability to change. Now rethink your comment.

Re:Exploitation (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319137)

Think of your degree of stupidity as a reflection of your inability to change. Now rethink your comment.

Sure, if I agreed with that statement, I might concur... but I really don't think that one's inability to change is a reflection of their stupidy (and even then I don't accept the assumption of inability to change).

Now you get to call me stupid (again) for not changing.

Re:Exploitation (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319221)

Sure, if I agreed with that statement, I might concur... but I really don't think that one's inability to change is a reflection of their stupidy (and even then I don't accept the assumption of inability to change).

The central measure for intelligence is the degree and speed of adaptability to new circumstances. As universities are typically unable to adapt (rooted in age-old dogma and entrenched authoritarian policy), they are unable to apply intelligence. Therefore when you apply policy you are applying stupidity.

Re:Exploitation (2, Insightful)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319097)

The stupid exploit the smart.

Please. Most university faculty are a looong way from stupid. That said, while I understand the argument that university resources are being used in the creation of these "inventions" (ideas), surely the fact that THE STUDENTS ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR USE OF THESE RESOURCES should mean that they owe the university nothing, and anything outside of normal coursework is theirs to call their own.

Incorrect. They are paying tuition and fees, plus living expenses. None of that is covered in the research facilities and Federal Research dollars that build those facilities, pay for PhDs and have a built-in R&D factory.

Re:Exploitation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319189)

Tuition and FEES... Hrm, I wonder what fees cover? I pay: Lab, Facilities maintenence, Facility expansion, International, IT, Paper, Administrative, Student Services, and Student Life. And a surcharge to cover the administration of the various fees. This is on top of tuition that is supposed to pay the PhDs.

Property, Universities, Government (4, Insightful)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319175)

"Property" addles the brain. Also, universities don't see their mission as helping the economy, so acts on their part which harm the formation of wealth are fine, as long as their research is protected.

Government, however, should know better. But there, lawyers (such as most politicians) make the decisions, and law is centred around property (well, '9/10'ths of it is). Lawyers are often constitutionally incapable of comprehending how certain forms of "intellectual property" are counterproductive. Besides, politicians frequently confuse economics and finance, and are under constant pressure to reduce costs, rather than maximise productivity.

Additionally, in terms of American politics, universities are expected to do what they can with their own "assets" according to industry norms; to do otherwise would seem "socialist". Ironically, this attitude results in a branch of the state owning wealth-creating ideas and effectively taxing them twice (once to use the idea, once with the profits made from the idea).

This attitude on the part of Government isn't exclusive to the US. In my home city of Cambridge, UK, the university fought Government pressure to claim patent rights over student and staff discoveries. Here, ownership of one's ideas has had a long history. In the end some compromise (generous licence terms) was found, but the Government truly do not understand the harm that it is causing - ultimately to its own tax revenue.

Re:Exploitation (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319215)

No, it's business majors and politicians (generally the less intelligent of their law class) exploiting people who actually come up with useful ideas.

Great (4, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318515)

...I guess some inventive students are receiving more of an education than they bargained for. Shameful behavior from institutions which really ought to be setting a better example.

Re:Great (2, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318563)

I guess some inventive students are receiving more of an education than they bargained for

Well they should've read the IP document they signed when they took the funding, then.

Re:Great (2, Interesting)

rxan (1424721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318677)

Well they should've read the IP document they signed when they took the funding, then.

Most institutions will try to take ideas whether or not funding was provided. They will try to use the excuse that you "used the institution's facilities" to work on your project. Isn't that what my tuition paid for?

Re:Great (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319197)

Isn't that what my tuition paid for?

I don't know. What did it say in the contract you signed when handing over the money?

Re:Great (4, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318691)

Well they should've read the IP document they signed when they took the funding, then.

Not sure how it works in most fields, but in the one I'm in, it's your boss that gets the funding, not you. So their boss should have told them that. Of course, even if they had, this situation would STILL be ridiculous. It's not like students have much bargaining power, especially when it comes to who gets the rights. Not accepting the bargain would mean the student in question would be working AT a shoe store, not running a software company for them.

Re:Great (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318607)

>"Shameful behavior from institutions which really ought to be setting a better example."

Bah - that's nothing. Wait until the idea hits high school robot competitions... [usfirst.org]

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318727)

Companies do this too. I don't really see the difference. Your fees cover very little of the R&D you do in graduate work, that money is not yours and there is always a deal to sign to get it. At the end you have what you came for, a PhD or whatever.

Re:Great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318919)

Usually you don't pay a company to work in it.

Re:Great (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319249)

ummm...

When you're a student, you pay for the time you spend there.
When you're an employee, you GET PAID for the time you spend there.

Dunno about you, but I most certainly do see the difference.

Do you hate freedom? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318517)

If you agree with me, you are a devil worshipper who likes buttholes/ BAD BAD BAD wheer is my ghuh9y8io3nljkgf sghdbv9pnj knm"""":::::::WWWWWWWW

Encouraging innovation (5, Insightful)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318527)

I believe the justification for patents is that it encourages innovation, allowing products to come to market that would otherwise never see the light of day. To be honest, I have always been pretty skeptical, but it seems particularly difficult to square such a claim when inventors are prevented from using their own inventions. If MIT wants to patent its students' work, it should at least exempt those who had the idea in the first place from paying royalties.

Re:Encouraging innovation (2, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318621)

Makes a lot of sense to do it the correct way, nope on the other hand this turns around and makes sure that those brilliant idea never see the light of day in some cases and in other cases where the funds should go to the student/entrepreneur so they can get their own startup going, it never happens.

Re:Encouraging innovation (1)

ion.simon.c (1183967) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319051)

An institution would probably do what most engineering firms do: require the inventor to hand over all rights to the invention for some token amount. Makes legal issues hella easy to resolve. ;)

Re:Encouraging innovation (5, Informative)

AigariusDebian (721386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319111)

Easy solution - go to EU. The patent as described is a pure software patent and would be invalid outside US (and Japan). Way to squash innovation, US. :P

Re:Encouraging innovation (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319209)

I don't understand??? Then how can the educational institution rape it's students??? I mean all's fair in love and being a greedy bastard, right? Schools are "for profit organizations", and nothing says KA-Ching $$$$ quite like stealing the intellectual creations of your students...

Oh yeah, you know some chancellor someplace is building a golden parachute large enough to float east Texas!

I have had something similar happen to me. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318543)

The university where I graduated from forced all students to sign an agreement that any work that you do while a student of the university, they hold all the copyrights.

I have come up with ideas and made many music recordings, all of which I have have zero right to exploit as I do not own the rights. It doesn't matter if the work was done at home or at a university campus.

Re:I have had something similar happen to me. (4, Informative)

Yokaze (70883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318713)

Copyright, not patent. Also was it the exclusive copyright?

If I am not mistaken, at my university, they get the right to copy my works done for the universtity (papers, reports, thesis, a.s.o ), but I still retain my copyright as the author.
Patents are a different matter: They only get it, when I choose to apply for the patent through the university. Then they take care of the legal and commercial matters and I get a share of the profit (IRC, 30 percent).

Re:I have had something similar happen to me. (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318913)

at my university, ... Patents are a different matter: They only get it, when I choose to apply for the patent through the university. Then they take care of the legal and commercial matters and I get a share of the profit (IRC, 30 percent).

So the University gets their name on the patent for your work, they sign a contract granting you 30% of 'profit' derived from the patent, and here's the important part: you have no control over the licensing fee.

So if you want to use their patent, guess what, they can make the licensing fee extortionate enough that you cannot follow through on your business plan.

Kind of like what is happening to Mr. iShoe.

Re:I have had something similar happen to me. (2, Informative)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319009)

The above guy said: "They only get it, when I choose to apply for the patent through the university." Sounds like the student's choice to me. The summary didn't make it sound like it was the student's choice. But the July article says:

Lieberman and other iShoe team members have applied for a patent on the technology, to be jointly held by MIT, Harvard and NASA.

Sounds like he went the university route. He ('they' actually) should've read the fine print.

Re:I have had something similar happen to me. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318791)

I wonder if you could charge them for it. Work out how much time you've spent producing everything and since they own the IP, it's a work for hire so you're entitled to minimum wage.

It's hokum as far as legal arguments go but an irritated official might decide to tell you that it only applies to work done using university facilities.

Re:I have had something similar happen to me. (1)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319263)

You signed it...

DON'T DO IT!

Animal House 2009 (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318549)

"Whaddya mean they patented our Toga Party concept?"

Laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318551)

Something's very wrong here. These universities do not exist for their own sake. They merely exist to generate both the next generation of scientiest and also the next generation of entrepeneurs that will run fortune 500 businesses based on the ideas developed during their studies.

The way it is now, they merely prohibit students from ever becoming self employed, provably providing the next generation of new firms that will run the country's economy.

eh, that sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318553)

sucks lots. no fair.

Some balance is needed (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318555)

If these are being funded by Federal dollars, than it should look carefully at how these are administered. In particular, part of the earnings should go back to the feds. But, also, I wonder wether the feds can say we allow the university TRUE LIMITED TIMES with these. The idea of patents and copyrights (as laid out by forefathers) was to give ppl LIMITED time to build businesses off these, make some money and then allow the idea to revert to the COMMONWEALTH. That is, into public space. Now, congress has changed it so that the patent is the money maker.

in]formati-ve spongesponge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318577)

Us3rs With Large

Australian Universities (5, Interesting)

Blittzed (657028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318587)

In Australian Universities (at least the one I work for anyway), students retain all IP rights to any research they conduct. As staff though, we get no rights for anything we come up with. Well, it used to be that way until one professor who developed a new way to treat liver cancer challenged the University he worked for. The judege ruled in his favour stating that there is no contractual 'duty to invent'. Here's the story if anyone is interested...

http://http//www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=404351&sectioncode=26 [http]

Re:Australian Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318715)

In addition to this, if you want to study online with some of them, you can do so via Open Universities Australia (OUA) [open.edu.au] I've found them to be quite good so far, especially the courses offered by RMIT [rmit.edu.au] , the subject I did covering Immunology, Microbiology and Genetics was by far the most enjoyable experience I've ever had at an education institution, unfortunately it requires a practical week in-lab, so it's probably not possible for people overseas to do.

Disclosure: I don't work for OUA, however it was my experience and subjects I did through them that got me interested in Bioinformatics and the Graduate program I wanted to do.

Re:Australian Universities (5, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318783)

Holy shit! Australia isn't batshit insane for once. I guess Howard never got around to the universities.

Re:Australian Universities (1)

SystematicPsycho (456042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318993)

Oh yes he did, the "HELP" scheme...

Re:Australian Universities (1)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319017)

Eeek.

HELP, VSU, as well as "Academics" being the primary targets in his culture wars.

Howard knew damn well where disagreement with his extremism was most likely to present itself.

Re:Australian Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318793)

Do you have proof for this? I attend Deakin and have been told several times that the university holds the copyright to any/all of our work, and anything we do on their PCs.

Re:Australian Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319011)

Ask for a copy of your Uni's IP policy. If they don't have one by default you own your output. If they do have one then it will provide answers. My university (Newcastle, AU) is quite explicit that students own their own work. If a staff member creates IP the split is: Uni 25%, faculty 25%, inventer 50%. I'm not aware of any AU uni which does claim their student's work (unless you receive external funding from an industrial source, in which case IP conditions are contractually specified between the student and funding company.)

Re:Australian Universities (1)

Paperkirin (888073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318955)

That's how it works in every UK university I've heard of, too -- you own the rights to your work as a student. They own the rights to the work of staff, though, and any kind of staff-student collaboration could be a bit difficult to sort out, but student-only stuff, even if you use their stuff to do it, is in the clear.

Re:Australian Universities (1)

Enter the Shoggoth (1362079) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319077)

In Australian Universities (at least the one I work for anyway), students retain all IP rights to any research they conduct. As staff though, we get no rights for anything we come up with. Well, it used to be that way until one professor who developed a new way to treat liver cancer challenged the University he worked for. The judege ruled in his favour stating that there is no contractual 'duty to invent'. Here's the story if anyone is interested...

http://http//www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=404351&sectioncode=26 [http]

Whilst this is technically correct it also misleading; yes it is true that in Australia students own the IP to anything they produce whilst doing a research degree, however, if you read the fine print on the application/enrolment form you will find that there is a clause which gives those rights back to the institution, you must sign this section to recieve any tuition fee scholarship (in Australia most graduate research students have their tuition paid by the Government but the assignment of these funds is handled by the universities' administrative unit) thus in actuality unless you are the handfull of students who are willing to stump up the $20K or so per annum yourself (or more likely your employer) then the university has defacto ownership of your IP.

Re:Australian Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319125)

Not necessarily the case with Australian Postgraduate Awards. When I accepted an APA scholarship I did not lose my IP rights and have a copy filed away of an explicit Uni policy of the time that states IP is mine. Note: mine was not an "Industry" APA, meaning my scolarship was funded by the AU government, not a company. Your uni might be different (I signed up with Newcastle Uni in 2004.)

Re:Australian Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319227)

English was clearly not your subject...

In one long sentence (probably better constructed as four): recieve, handfull, universities' (it's singular in this context), defacto (it's two words).

Re:Australian Universities (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319081)

You're quite lucky then. As a PhD at an Australian university, I was more or less forced to sign an IP agreement to hand over any IP rights that I have in return for their usual staff IP revenue agreement (1/3 profit university, 1/3 faculty, 1/3 inventors).

Whether the compensation is adequate is not the point of this discussion - more the fact I was told that I will not be able to use any university equipment beyond a computer with the usual MS software and Matlab if I didn't sign on the dotted line.

As most PhD candidates in a technology/science field of endeavor is aware, this basically means it's impossible to complete your research without signing the agreement.

At one stage, they were not letting people pass their three-month review without submitting an IP agreement.

The agreement also has a line for the student to sign that says that they have had an adequate opportunity to seek independent legal advice before signing the agreement. Opportunity yes, but given the average grad student barely scrapes together rent and food money, and that the university does not supply any independent legal advice, it means that this opportunity is rarely taken.

I'm not sure what the situation is now (I signed in 2005), but I hope the process now is a little fairer on students.

Bass Ackwards (5, Insightful)

FauxReal (653820) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318593)

Funny, I thought the whole tuition thing was your payment for using their academic resources and facilities? Otherwise, shouldn't they be paying students for their development work?

Re:Bass Ackwards (1)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318763)

In slovenia postgrad "students" usually ARE paid for their research and their tuition only goes towards the few classes and exams they take on the course to their master's or doctorate. I think that's a lovely solution to the whole IP thing, because you were paid to invent and got to do the thesis on paid time, it's only fair that the university gets what you invent.

More often than not, if you want to develop your research further than the thesis after getting your doctorate they are willing to continue paying you to do so.

Re:Bass Ackwards (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318965)

This is true in the states too. For many sciences, postgrads are paid, doctoral candidates get a stipend, but master's get nothing. If he was a going for his Ph.D. or was already postgrad, Lieberman probably got paid, or got a free ride.

iShoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318627)

Ok, so this guy not only have to deal with the Universities for using idea which was originally his, but now have to deal with trademark infringement with Apple? Yeah good luck trying to keep your balance when you shoot yourself in the foot.

But jokes aside, aside from helping the disabled, maybe this technology can be used in the world of sports?

Re:iShoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318671)

Coming soon to the Nintendo Wii!

KEEP YOUR IDEAS TO YOURSELF! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318629)

Until you're out of school.

This crap will hurt the schools in the long run. Instead of being able to pickup a patent here and there. People will work hard to keep their ideas secret until they are free and clear of the schools influence. And the schools get NOTHING.

Yet another case of excessive greed ruining something good.

Great work there.

Re:KEEP YOUR IDEAS TO YOURSELF! (5, Informative)

rxan (1424721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318661)

I completely agree. I attend University of Toronto, and the first thing our prof said about our senior year project was "If you have some ideas you are passionate about that may be profitable, keep them out of the project."

Publish immediately and then no one can charge you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318647)

Do undergrads in design classes sign an agreement over IP now? I know I had to sign one for graduate school, but I wasn't aware undergrads had to do it too. Since often times these design classes are required in order to get a degree, this would seem very heavy handed to me. Of course, making grad students sign over their inventions is coercive as well, since there really isn't any place you can go in the US these days that doesn't require you to sign such a thing, but Ph.D.'s are seen as being more optional in life. Luckily for me, the likelihood of a great, patentable invention coming out of my work is extremely low.

I guess the best strategy to follow if you want to avoid paying a fee to use your own invention would just be to publish your result right away before the tech transfer office gets word about its usefulness. Then go form your own company and "run like hell" to make sure you are the leader in the field before anyone else can catch up to you. The usefulness of patents in creating successful companies is often dubious anyway.

Re:Publish immediately and then no one can charge (4, Insightful)

zenyu (248067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318865)

I don't know how it is now, but when I went to NYU for my Ph.D. studies there was nothing like this you had to sign. You retained copyright to anything you did, just like professors and tuition paying students did. It was University policy that they owned any patents they filed for on your behalf, but you would get 50% of the royalties. There was very little pressure to apply for patents on your inventions, those who took the University up on it's offer were dreaming of the royalties. Those who didn't were generally the pulled-up-themselves-up-by-the-bootstraps sort who felt that patenting their ideas was an ignoble act after their run of good luck in getting where they were (it takes more than just smarts).

I highly doubt MIT coerced this former graduate student into patenting his invention. He probably just got greedy and now the university is seeking a little cost recovery. The issues concerning whether it when it is good idea to patent your inventions have been well understood among engineering and science graduate students for about a decade now, so I'm fairly confident that he was well aware of them.

Re:Publish immediately and then no one can charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319029)

I'm actually less familiar with what the rules are for my work and copyrights. I was referring to patents, from which, as you correctly point out, the inventor (the grad student in this case) gets a portion of any royalties. I believe it is typically closer to 30 or 35 percent rather than 50, since the department and the primary investigator often get a slice too. In any case, you don't retain control over the patent, in that the school can decide who they want to sell/lease it to. If they think the return will be better by going with another company rather than the one you want to set up, you can't really do anything about it.

But if your invention wasn't going to compete in an industry with high barriers to entry or large established players, is a patent really that useful? Especially if its existence is going to cost your fledgling company lots of money? The answer may be yes or it may be no. It really depends. But there are _lots_ of successful companies that started without patents.

Re:Publish immediately and then no one can charge (3, Insightful)

Zey (592528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319147)

It was University policy that they owned any patents they filed for on your behalf, but you would get 50% of the royalties.

Given the cost of registering then protecting your patent in the courts would be prohibitive to all and near impossible for most ordinary salary earners (let alone students on their student grants!), that's actually quite a sound deal they're offering.

This lesson only needs to be learnt once... (1)

Klootzak (824076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318651)

There is of course VERY simple solution - make sure your Professors/Academic Council don't really understand what you're doing... and don't release the "brilliant" parts of your solution(s).

Lets say you've come up with a brilliant way to perform Inventory/Order Management within an Information System... don't document the entire thing, put enough information in so they can see that it can (potentially) work, but the devil is (of course) in the detail... I did this one time when I didn't trust the person running the subject I was studying at the time (the individual also OBVIOUSLY didn't know his subject material and, in my opinion, had the ethical stance of a rat).

In any case, if your invention is innovative/worthwhile, you'll get to negotiate an agreement with the University should you continue developing it... remember though, give a VAGUE overview of the concept, and don't detail how it can be implemented to perform the function that you invisage it being used for UNTIL YOU'VE GOT THE SIGNED AGREEMENT/CONTRACT!!!

More Uni money = more investment in research? (1)

Narkov (576249) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318719)

Aside from the obvious point-of-view that this is almost theft, doesn't this mean the University can afford to invest in more research and therefore invent more cool technologies?

Re:More Uni money = more investment in research? (1)

loonycyborg (1262242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318779)

No. This means that students will keep their cool ideas to themselves, so the University won't get anything anyway while implementation of students' ideas is delayed.

Waterloo (3, Interesting)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318737)

At the University of Waterloo, the policy is that any student created IP is property of that student. Its awesome. I love it.

Patent it First? (5, Insightful)

HJED (1304957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318739)

There is a simple solution here:
If you have a realy good idea that you intend to start a business with then patent it before you submit your work!
You would have to do it anyway

Re:Patent it First? (2, Interesting)

Constantin (765902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319243)

Not that easy...

While I agree that the terms that most Intellectual Property Offices (IPOs) offer are rapacious, the benefits of having someone else invest $300K to secure worldwide patent rights also have to be considered. Particularly, if that institution has big pockets and hence some bloodthirsty lawyes only too happy to sue a big multinational for patent infringement. On the other hand, if you are a little company, a large company might just ignore your patent because patent litigation tends to be a civil affair, which means it'll cost you a lot of money to defend. Money you may not have, forcing you to settle. Never mind the many ways in which the process can get perverted by lawyers.

I think a bigger issue for most IPOs is that they are run as cost centers. Thus, the terms tend to be rapacious by design (i.e. kill what you can today rather than take a longer-term view by taking just an equity stake). However, that state of affairs is unlikely to change since Universities appear to have become addicted to licensing fees and up-front charges generated by their IPOs just as cities have become dependent on "traffic enforcement" revenues. At the end of the day, it simply means that smart students will be much more circumspect in terms of what they disclose to the university. However, I imagine that industry is also sponsoring less and less research since they'd have to share patents/licensing fees/etc.

So, in the end, this obsession with licensing fees and patents will reduce innovation, not enhance it. Never mind the many mechanics involved in pacing an idea through the IPO...

Idiots: you should have lied instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26318769)

The correct procedure is to sit on all your ideas and only reveal them once you are out of university (pretend you developped them in the two months after you left universities).

If sued, in front of the judge, explain that during the time you were at university (if a grad) you were mostly used as low paid labor for boring and non innovative work like debugging other people code or correcting exams the professor was supposed to correct himself (varies according to university rules). And that you lacked the free time to innovate at that time.

Either that or have your mother patent them for you. Don't use your wife for that: too risky with divorce rates.

Now to those that think this is unethical: your employers have no loyalty for you ? Why should you have any for them? Loyalty is paid back with loyalty. Backstabbing is paid back with backstabbing.

Re:Idiots: you should have lied instead (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318815)

Either that or have your mother patent them for you. Don't use your wife for that: too risky with divorce rates.

Never heard of parents disowning their children, huh?

Re:Idiots: you should have lied instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319075)

Your patent would be invalidated by any lawyer who asked your mother to explain the invention. That's how the law works.

Re:Idiots: you should have lied instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26319123)

They can't in most roman law countries. In latin europe, at least half(the amount can vary from country to country) must go to the children.

Disowning them completely is close to impossible where I live. Many tried and failed.

Simple solution... (2, Interesting)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318773)

look over any paperwork for any class/university before signing it. if there is anything about inventions, works of art, essays, etc becoming university property, refuse to sign until the contract is amended. if they will not do it, vote with your dollars and promise bad publicity (there's no need for libel or slander when the truth is this ugly).

ianal, but i would assume that a university claiming rights to someone's work without a written agreement would not be viewed too positively in any court.

Re:Simple solution... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319245)

look over any paperwork for any class/university before signing it.

Would that be before or after your enrollment was accepted?

If before, then I don't see that you've got a case, unless the university really really wants you to attend. Your threat of bad publicity might not go that far...

If it's part way through your course when this contract is put in front of you and you are threatened with not being able to continue your course if you don't sign away your rights, then I could well imagine 'current affairs' type tv shows making a big deal about it...

patents (1)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318787)

Someone tell me again why exactly anyone thinks patents are a good idea? It becomes more and more obvious to me every day that they do NOT promote innovation, and probably do the exact opposite.

Protecting the inventors' rights, eh? (1, Troll)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318797)

So, here we have yet more patents doing a bang-up job of protecting the rights and interests of the actual inventors, which we were indoctrinated to believe is the purpose of the patent system, eh? Do you suppose we were told a lie?

This is nothing new. Walt Disney was able to patent Mickey Mouse many decades ago even though the character was a blatant ripoff of a physical toy (which had already been trademarked or patented, can't recall which).

The patent system does nothing to protect the rights of actual inventors, nor does it encourage invention. NOT having the safety net of a patent is a much stronger motivation to keep inventing than having one.

Creativity will die out by 2020... (2, Insightful)

eobet (959982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318835)

When huge, already established corporate entities and institutions will have monopoly on making money, we will be thrown into another period of medieval dark ages.

Let's hope a revolution will take place before that.

When did humans lose out in significance in favour of corporations?

Re:Creativity will die out by 2020... (1)

GOMF (1443581) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318885)

"When did humans lose out in significance in favour of corporations?" Forever, would be easier to ask when has it not. Evem Spock said something about how the many should be before the few on the one. there wont be a revolution, and there wont be any great changes to patent laws or copyright, they are concepts over time that have proven their worth to society. I cant see the world following your revolt regarding patents and copyright, but good luck with it.

Re:Creativity will die out by 2020... (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318923)

Are you implying that life was better before the industrial revolution?

Using Uni resources means they own it (2, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318839)

If you don't want the Uni to own your ideas, then don't use their resources to develop them. The same goes for business, if you work for a corporation and use their resources to develop an idea, then they own it.

You might not like it, but our society and legal system prefers those who take the most [financial] risk, not those who are the most creative.

It's not a secret (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318861)

Universities don't hide this fact from students... when we start grad school we sign a very specific intellectual property agreement. Universities aren't stupid, they have legal departments or at least consultants. Keep in mind that we aren't *just* students, most grad student researchers are really paid employees who happen to do their work at a school instead of a private company, instead of a manager we have an adviser (professor), and we also sometimes take or TA for classes.

Just like with a regular job you are free to ask that this agreement is altered or even nullified, but that's up to you and your employer (the school). If you invent something unrelated to your job (your academic research), then of course you are free to do whatever you want with it. If you invent something directly related to your job and you want to go start a company with that invention, you might be in for a fight, just like you would be with a regular employer.

Re:It's not a secret (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318941)

You cannot just equal publicly funded study with a job, in any way. I don't think it should be up to universities to impose such restrictions on students. Universities are there to make sure their students can advance as much as possible, not the other way around.

Much innovation is created during university study, if only because it is when people are introduced to a subject and are still open minded on the assumptions of the particular field they are studying. Telling students that they never can really do anything for their own, either during study or during work, means that many off these all important spin-offs won't work.

Just handing the stuff over to professors is obviously even worse. They already get more than enough of the fame and money.

Welcome to the real world (1)

GOMF (1443581) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318863)

Universities and industry get used to it, and know if you do come up with something patentable, the golden rule is, DONT TELL ANYONE. Its not the person who thought of the idea, its the person or group who patents it. I bet most students even if they did come up with the idea have the resources to patent it anyway, so what then let someone else get a patent on it ? The world is not easy or fair nor should it be, get over it.

45-billion in tuition relief? (1)

Compass Man (701268) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318891)

The 45-billion dollars in royalties must be the reason that tuition are going down.

Unsteady ground. Literally. (5, Interesting)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26318907)

We should be careful here. The system may be best left as is. The idea is that:

most universities own inventions created by students that were developed using a 'significant' amount of schools resources.

This is to protect universities against people taking 99% of the university's idea/invention, adding 1%, and then using the university's research to make money while the university keeps begging for donations. Some universities may be fine monetarily, but some need all the money they can get to keep up their standards.

Onto this case. Perhaps MIT & NASA already had the equipment and a similar algorithm that Lieberman simply added an elegant flourish to. If that's the case, he should get some joint arrangement going, but he shouldn't be allowed to pass it off as if he developed the entire thing himself. But what it actually sounds more like, is they both sides significantly contributed, which makes things difficult.

He can try to prove that the university's contribution to the project was "insignificant", but that's going to be a hard sell. If I were him, I'd see what friends I still have in the MIT bureaucracy, see what they can do, and then (while trying to not to ostrichsize them) try to get as much media attention as possible so that MIT can make a good-will announcement that they're giving him the rights.

Tehn why (1)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319073)

Why the fuck are they charging so much to study there?

I'm going to be unpopular here, but... (5, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319163)

Let's keep a few things in mind:

1. This was "a technology he created as an intern at NASA in the summer of 2007 [nytimes.com] ." It's not like he was an undergraduate sitting in a classroom -- he was working for NASA when he made the invention.

2. "The iShoe researchers used some of their own work and previous NASA data [usatoday.com] ," the latter presumably taken with "an expensive device about the size of a phone booth" in the creation of their invention. So NASA's data (and presumably equipment) were needed to produce the invention.

3. While an intern, Lieberman was also a federally-funded (i.e., taxpayer-supported) graduate student, receiving money from both the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense [mit.edu] , through his university, for his research. Like many (perhaps substantially all) graduate researchers in US universities, he was being paid by his university to do research. The fact that the research was being conducted at NASA doesn't change the fact that Lieberman was on the university payroll at the time the invention was made. Welcome to internships.

4. His company has also filed for federal funding [usatoday.com] to develop the idea for market and, "[o]nce funding is obtained, the iShoe could be for sale in 18 months, Lieberman said." So he's still using taxpayer money to develop the invention for market.

5. We don't know what the "hefty royalty" is (unless I missed it, it's not in any of the linked articles), but $75,000 is peanuts. "The iShoe has a way to go to reach the market [...] Lieberman estimates $1 million is needed for a broad clinical trial, and $3 million to $4 million [usatoday.com] to bring the insole to market." As a startup, his monthly burn rate will be much more than $75,000.

Frankly, I'm fine with institutions receiving a financial return on the work of their paid employees -- especially if taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill. In fact, I would argue that Mr. Lieberman is getting a sweetheart deal; I think once he gets into industry himself he'll find that the commercial sector typically requires employees to assign all rights to any future inventions (at least, in the company's field of interest) to their employer starting on Day 1, usually with trivial or no compensation.

It will be interesting to see what intellectual property policy the new iShoe company establishes for its own employees. As CEO [ishoeinsole.com] , will Lieberman let his iShoe researchers invent and patent without expecting that those inventions will belong to iShoe?

Dos and Don'ts (1)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26319247)

What else is new?

If you have an idea and that idea was 100% yours, then:

1. Don't do a paper with it;
2. Don't present it to professors;
3. Don't do anything with it BEFORE you end your scholarship.

AFTER you end your student days, implement and patent it.

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