Compliance & Policies

Intellectual Property FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Washington University's policy on intellectual property?

A: A key component of Washington University's overall mission is to serve the common good by advancing the fruits of its research and scientific investigation to the benefit of the general population. Washington University has a responsibility to both its University community and to the public at large to provide a fair and consistent mechanism through which intellectual property may be made available for public use. The Intellectual Property Policy defines this mechanism.

Q: Why did Washington University revise its current policy?

A: Washington University had a patent policy that was approved in 1971. That policy covered only inventions and applied only to a group described simply as "inventors". The policy often was confusing and difficult to interpret which led to inconsistent treatment. The new policy applies to faculty, staff, students, trainees and anyone who participates in research projects at Washington University ("creators") and covers all forms of intellectual property. It also complies with all applicable federal regulations.

Q: What are the major changes in the new policy?

A: There are two main areas of change: ownership and income sharing. Under the new policy, all intellectual property is owned by Washington University, if significant University resources were used or if it is created pursuant to a research project funded through corporate, federal or other external sponsors administered by Washington University. This change brings the policy into accord with federal law and regulations. The new policy also provides that the University share royalties, equity and other income derived from licensing patented inventions and other transfers of technology with creators. The policy includes a separate document (Guidelines) that defines the process through which income will be shared. These guidelines have been approved at the following distribution levels: 35% creator(s), 40% Creator(s) School, and 25% Office of Technology Management.

Q: How is intellectual property defined under the new policy?

A: Intellectual property is defined broadly and includes all tangible research property such as lab notebooks and cell lines. The policy excludes from University ownership rights in artistic, literary and scholarly works (such as scholarly books, articles and other publications), works of art, literature and musical recordings, as well as all copyrights in papers, theses and dissertations written as a student to earn credit for a degree.

Q: What is the effective date of the change in income distribution?

A: The amended policy is effective July 1, 2005. The amended policy is effective for any license agreement signed after July 1, 2005, independent of the date of disclosure. License agreements signed prior to July 1, 2005 will be handled in accordance with the distribution formula in effect at the time the license agreement was signed.

Q: What services can I expect from the Office of Technology Management ("OTM") in exchange for their share of net income?

A: Washington University recognizes its responsibilities to faculty and all creators of intellectual property. Examples of the services provided by the Office of Technology Management include: legal support as OTM deems necessary to protect intellectual property, reports to research sponsors and other administrative burdens as required by regulation or agreement, reconciliation of expenses and distribution of income, and to provide a process for dispute resolution.

These responsibilities are consistent with a national trend followed by many Universities to enhance services to faculty. Washington University has made a conscious decision to apply significant University resources to support faculty and other creators in their academic mission by relieving them of considerable administrative burdens.

Q: If the University has an ownership interest in all tangible research materials, am I free to send these to other scientists?

A: Exchanging proprietary research materials with other investigators can significantly affect intellectual property rights. Therefore, any receipt or dissemination of research materials to or from other institutions or corporations should be done with a material transfer agreement and coordinated through the Office of Technology Management. For further assistance, contact (314) 747-0920.

Additional questions regarding Washington University's Intellectual Property Policy may be directed to the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at (314) 362-7010.