Your source for expert commentary on IP management issues.
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Editor-in-Chief, Anatole Krattiger
Why This Topic Is Important
This section approaches questions of inventorship and how to document and disclose inventions in order
to support applications for intellectual property protection. Institutions need clear policies on laboratory
record keeping, disclosure of inventions, and rights of inventors.
Key Implications and Best Practices: Section 8
- People and institutions typically look after their possessions in a much more serious manner than if they have no stake in them. This is applicable to physical property and to intellectual property. For this reason, work with your governments to implement policies (or enact legislation, as appropriate) that clearly spell out how public sector institutions, including government research centers and universities, can protect, own, and license inventions developed at your institution.
- Arguably, the minds of scientists operate differently from those of lawyers, politicians, and university presidents (although many a president is a former scientist). Similarly, those engaged in managing intellectual property in public sector institutions face different challenges than do scientist-inventors. The differences can be a source of much tension, but such tension can be preempted if scientists are given an opportunity to learn the basics of IP management, including best practices, in terms of data and information management related to inventions. Public sector institutions and companies alike should offer and require limited, but essential, training to every scientist, student researcher, and technician when he or she joins a research program.
- Such training programs can be provided as a series of short seminars or even half-day orientation courses. And they are most effective if the institutions have clear IP policies that include matters related to ownership of inventions, the duty to disclose inventions, and laboratory notebook keeping. The latter is common practice in any private sector R&D center. Comprehensive research records are fundamental to best practices in science, IP management, and in the regulatory process.
- University faculty, staff, and students do not have to become IP experts. The IP management training programs is best offered by the technology transfer personnel that will be interacting with scientists rather than by lawyers and outside consultants can be useful facilitators. Part of the aim of such training is team building that encourages communication between the scientists, technology transfer personnel, and senior management. It is part of creating a culture of IP awareness.
- Many scientists at public institutions often do not (initially, at least) appreciate the importance of laboratory notebooks and documentation protocols. For private sector R&D centers, this is done as a matter of routine. Some argue that good laboratory notebook practices lead to better science. laboratory notebooks surely lead to better invention disclosures, prevent fraud, clarify inventorship, facilitate patent applications, and ultimately, pay off for individuals and institutions in the long term.
- If an invention is protected, then much can be gained if inventors are actively involved in all phases of the protection and marketing of their inventions. Inventors not only have intimate knowledge of their inventions; they may also have useful leads and contacts in companies or have ideas about how an invention could be incorporated into existing products or services. The practice of occasional seminars by technology transfer personnel for scientists is a practice that will strengthen the interest and involvement of scientists in this process.
How to Start–and Keep–a Laboratory Notebook: Policy and Practical Guidelines
by Jennifer A. Thomson