Corporate intellectual property policy refers to a corporation's approach regarding trademark, copyright, trade secrets, patents, and other intangible rights for many services and products. The intellectual capital found in creative content and inventions in today's economy is as crucial to economic growth as traditional goods, services, and capital are. Intellectual property provides returns and incentives on investments for intellectual capital in order to produce new creations and innovations. These individual companies, natural economies, and industry sectors are then made more competitive.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to an intangible product of the mind, i.e., a work or invention that is a result of creativity, for which one can apply for protection in the form of a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.

The word “copyright” is defined as a bundle of rights that keep original works of authorship protected, either currently or when they're developed later. It prevents the copyrighted article from being reproduced by someone else. Works of authorship include the following:

  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Sculptural works
  • Choreographic works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

A "patent" protects a discovery or invention that includes a new process, manufacture, machine, composition, or any improvement that's useful. Programs that are considered to be a new and useful process can be considered for patent protection. Programs that have a minimal amount of original expression may also be suitable for copyright protection. A patent lasts for 20 years from the day it was originally filed. The protection begins when the Patent & Trademark Office actually issues the patent.

Copyrights for articles that were created and published after the date of January 1, 1978, last for the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years. Before this date, the duration of a copyright was 75 years. In 1998, this was increased to 95 years. Copyright protection is different from patent protection since it starts as soon as it's put on paper. Registration is voluntary. Copyright begins when a work is created, and there is no need to register a copyright unless you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.  

Who Owns the Intellectual Property?

The American Association of University Professors has a policy called "Statement on Copyright," but it hasn't officially answered questions on patents. This statement assumes that anyone who creates intellectual property owns it. This assumption also applies to the patent area. 

However, it is stated that any intellectual property that's made, created, or originated by a member of the faculty will be the exclusive and sole property of the author, inventor, or faculty member. They can choose to voluntarily transfer the property in part or full. Certain works may be regarded as "made for hire," considered "joint works," or are negotiated contractual transfers.

Who May Use the Intellectual Property?

An institutional policy or collective bargaining agreement can allow institutions to use the works that faculty members have created without charge for administrative and educational purposes within the institution. Faculty members are encouraged to have these uses in their agreements when they transfer copyrights for their works to a publisher. These uses let the institution operate more effectively and efficiently for the purpose of agreeing with requests from accreditation agencies and do not infringe on any faculty rights.

Material that is formed for regular teaching use in department programs and the classroom, such as assignments, tests, and syllabi, should be the property of the original faculty author. However, institutions should be allowed to use this material for internal educational, instructional, and administrative purposes. This includes meeting the requests of accreditation agencies for course descriptions and faculty-authored syllabi. Faculty authors should look to provide rights in an agreement that transfers copyright to a publisher.

Distribution of Any Funds Generated

Any funds that faculty members receive from selling intellectual property that's owned by a faculty inventor or author should be given out and expended as determined by the faculty inventor or author. Funds that the university or college receives from selling intellectual property owned by the university or college should be allocated and expended based on the college's discretion.

If there is more than one creator, all the creators will decide the allocation of their individual shares when the work was first started. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) states that that formation of the Intellectual Property Committee serves a helpful purpose in non-collective and collective bargaining environments.

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