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Rights and obligations of intellectual property ownership at UOIT

Like most other organizations, UOIT has a number of policies that govern the rights and responsibilities of its faculty, staff and students. Having policies  posted in the public domain and reviewed at regular intervals helps ensure everyone is aware of their rights and the expectations of those around them.

There are links to the intellectual property (IP) policy, conflict of interest polices and spinout company policy below. Here, a few highlights of the policies will be given, but everyone is encouraged to read the policies.

UOIT is an inventor-owned institution. All academic personnel own the IP they create in the course of their teaching, research and other scholarly activities. The fact that all academic personnel have ownership rights has implications. For the most part, inventions and other IP created in the course of research will be jointly owned by the faculty member and his or her students and postdocs.

The IP created by non-academic personnel employed by the university is owned by UOIT. The implications of this are that individuals such as technicians and contract employees do not own the IP. Ideally, this is clearly specified in the employment contract.

Although academic personnel own the IP they create, and as such as are free to decide how it will be developed, or if it will be developed, the IP policy bestows a couple of obligations on creators:

  • They must make a disclosure to the university, through the Office of Research Services, about the invention. The inventor then has the option of pursuing commercialization on his or her own, although it is recommended that this be in consultation with any co-creators. Alternatively, the inventors may offer the IP to the university for commercialization. If the university determines there is sufficient commercial potential for the invention, it will bear the costs of commercialization.
  • The university retains the right to use the invention for teaching and research purposes. This protects all involved parties so researchers can continue their work when it is licensed to a commercial concern.

The other major policy factors related to the development of IP at UOIT are conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies. No one wants to be accused of conflicting interests, but sometimes it happens due to the circumstances, rather than the actions of those involved. There is an inherent difference between academic and commercial goals. UOIT's conflict of interest policies are written to help manage situations where there may be perceived conflicts, so that if possible, both the academic and commercial interests can be pursued with transparency and for the benefit of all concerned.

If a researcher has a significant financial interest in a commercial concern, which is generally defined as an ownership (equity) stake of more than $10,000, or a position such as employee or member of the Board of Directors, or owner or licensee of intellectual property in the company, many granting agencies may restrict the ability of researcher to obtain grants related to the company. However, each agency is different and their guidelines should be checked individually.

Another major area of concern, or perceived conflict of interest when faculty are involved in companies, is the role of their students with respect to the company. As a result of the authority the faculty advisor exercises over his or her students, and the perception of the student that his or her degree may be at stake, many institutions do not allow students to participate in their advisor’s companies. 


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