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UC-Denver student fights to make sure undergrad inventors get their share of royalties


By David Schwartz
Published: January 28th, 2015

A student at the University of Colorado-Denver is fighting for students to get their fair share of revenues earned from products they help invent while at school.

According to the Association of University Technology Managers, in 2013 alone there were more than $22 billion in sales of products created and based on academic research. To UC-Denver student and innovator Caleb Carr, student researchers are being left out of the profits.

Alongside a core team of about seven other students, Carr has met with dozens of lawmakers in hopes of proposing legislation in early 2015 that would redefine how students benefit financially from student ideas built with campus resources. The ultimate goal is a 75/25 split in favor of students when their campus-based idea starts generating revenue.

Unfortunately, says Carr, the current lack of certainty on how profits should be split is hampering innovation, which is a serious problem considering many of those innovations are in healthcare and would otherwise be improving real patients’ lives. Carr says he knows students who backed away from working on ideas at school because they thought the university would unjustly reap the monetary rewards.

“We routinely heard from students that the university was going to claim their IP regardless,” said one of the tech transfer managers who responded to a study conducted by nonprofit VentureWell. The study found that 71% of the tech transfer managers it interviewed said that faculty’s understanding of IP policy regarding undergraduates was either fair or poor.

“The issue at hand is to understand IP and how it might be applied,” says VentureWell CEO Phil Weilerstein. “That’s a challenge regardless of the policy.”

Carr points to Clemson, Purdue and Emory as examples of universities that have been up front on the issue of students’ IP. “We understand the culture, and the challenges, and what it takes to incubate an idea and to get them to a point where they can be successful,” says J. Cale Lennon of Emory’s tech transfer office.

Carr is optimistic that more schools will follow Emory’s lead. “We have a real chance to change undergraduate education,” he says. “We’ll never see the fruits of this. But we know we’re empowering undergraduates in the decades to come.”

Source: Fast Company

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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