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Modernized IP Policy the Result of Transparent Collaboration

A white and brown building behind tree branches
After a two-year process to review its policies regarding intellectual property (IP), the University of Pittsburgh has a new IP policy that modernizes our overall approach to managing IP; strengthens and clarifies faculty ownership of IP; and improves the mechanisms that return revenues to Pitt innovators, departments, schools and other research units when their inventions find commercial success.  

The process of review existing policies began two years ago, commencing with the naming of a committee of faculty, staff and administrators from across the University. The prior IP policies, which cover patent rights and copyrights, had been approved in 2005 and 2006 respectively, making it the appropriate time for review to ensure they best served the needs of all stakeholders and aligned with current best practices.

The development of the new policy was guided by the following principles:

  • Protect academic freedom to preserve and advance the core mission of the University;
  • Promote the dissemination of creative and scholarly works, discoveries and inventions;
  • Encourage, incentivize and safeguard the interests of innovators and the campus community to support the creation and further development of knowledge; and
  • Adapt to the new, changing and diverse ways in which discoveries continue to be made.

The new policy incorporates changes recommended by the committee to improve the University’s view on IP governance, including:

  • Consolidating all IP guidance into a single policy;
  • Updating the formula for distributing revenues received from commercialization to better incentivize and reward not only innovator, but also their supporting organizations;
  • Strengthening the language around IP ownership and affirming rights to scholarly creative work; and
  • Providing a mechanism resolving disputes over ownership concerns about potential misapplication of this policy.

View the final policy and check out an FAQ document for questions and answers relating to the new policy.

The committee was composed of a cross-functional group of Pitt faculty and staff members, including individual investigators, department chairs, deans and heads of research support organizations.

Said Chris Bonneau, professor of political science and president of the University Senate, “The IP policy committee proceeded in an open and collaborative manner. The resulting policy makes many improvements. In particular, it clarifies the distribution of revenues resulting from commercialization for innovators and their departments, schools and other research units.”

“We are grateful to all who participated in updating the intellectual property policy,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob A. Rutenbar. “Thanks are due for all of the input and feedback provided during the journey from concept development through to administrative approval.”