Intellectual Property Information

What is Intellectual Property and Why is it Important?

Northeastern has developed several companies originating from research, which requires attention to public policy related to Intellectual Property (IP). Intellectual Property refers to any creation of the mind, be it inventions, artistic/literary work, designs, etc., for which copyright laws are recognized. A research university is a wealth of innovation and scientific research breakthrough, and therefore, research universities have an important stake in federal policies governing intellectual property in such areas as copyright, patenting, and technology transfer.

Copyright and Patent laws

Universities have two responsibilities when working with faculty research that they hope to translate into a product or company: the institution is responsible for protecting ownership, while at the same time promoting the work with the public. Copyright law is absolutely essential when to protect the intellectual property.  

Technology Transfer

The Bayh-Dole Act, passed in 1980 was an attempte to bolster technology transfer, which is simply the process of sharing research or technologies among the federal government and other institutions, such as a university. The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), notes that, "universities typically transfer through protecting (using patents and copyrights), then licensing new innovations."

Because of this act and the ability to transfer technology, new industries have been created. Technologies and inventions created out of federally funded research can be commercialized and used to serve national and global interests. Northeastern's mission of use-inspired research would not be possible without the ability for researchers to turn their findings into valuable products or companies. AUTM discusses just how significant technology transfer is for our economy and national/global issues:

"Academic technology transfer - the licensing of innovations by universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes and patent management firms - adds billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. It contributes to the spawning of new businesses, creating new industries and opening new markets. Most important, technology transfer from universities to the commercial sector has led to new products and services that improve our quality of life. From new cancer treatments to faster modems, from environmentally friendly metal processing to beautiful flowering plants, technology transfer from academic institutions is advancing the way we live and work."

To get more information about Technology Transfer at Northeastern, click here.

Copy Right and Patents

There are two basic ways that copyright supports the mission of research endeavors: 1) "providing incentives for the creation of new works by granting proprietary rights to copyright owners, and 2) limiting those rights in order to facilitate public access to, and use of, creative works."

Copyright laws become especially necessary in the new digital age. With the influx of technologies, there are always emerging methods to access information. This can be both beneficial and dangerous. On one hand, universities can capitalize on this to promote the intellectual property with the public. On the other hand, institutions must work much harder to protect the integrity of the work.

Northeastern University deals with the issue of copyright and patent at length in the faculty handbook.

Patents, like copyright, are essential for a research university to protect research because they protect research from being sold or used by others.

A landmark piece of legislation for IP was the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which sought to "promote the utilization of inventions arising from federally supported research or development... [and] to promote commercialization and public availability of inventions."  Essentially, the act allowed the transfer of control from government agencies, who funded research, to universities or small businesses. Now, universities could retain the patent and licensing rights to eventually promote the commercialization of the inventions. Patents are key for this process.

For more information regarding US Copy Right law, click here