The University Record, February 27, 1996

Advances in technology transfer prompt proposed revision of Intellectual Property Policy

Revisions of the University's intellectual property policy will be presented to the Regents at their March 14-15 meeting. Advances in the practice of university technology transfer since the policy was last revised in 1987 have prompted several changes in the way the U-M will oversee the commercialization of technology arising from faculty and staff research.

Homer A. Neal, vice president for research, believes the proposed policy is essential to keep up with the changing context of technology transfer.

"Technology transfer has become progressively important to the research, teaching, and service missions of the University. The proposed revision of the Intellectual Property Policy," Neal says, "is one step in our efforts to facilitate technology transfer for those faculty for whom this is an important aspect of their scholarly activities. At the same time, we are taking care to ensure that our technology transfer efforts are fully consistent with the core missions of the University. I believe the proposed policy will achieve these goals."

Neal initiated a review of the policy nearly a year ago as part of his efforts to enhance U-M's technology transfer program.

"Last March, Vice President Neal, assisted by Bob Robb of the Technology Management Office and surgery and bioengineering Prof. Steve Goldstein, made a presentation to the Regents about Matrigen, an example of a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and a faculty start-up company in the field of genetic medicine," explains Marvin G. Parnes, assistant vice president for research. "In the discussion which followed, he was encouraged by the Regents to consider an approach which would make it easier for inventions derived from our top-ranked research program to find their way to commercial development and public use."

The resulting policy maintains many of the features of the 1987 version. Supporting Regents Bylaw 3.10, which addresses University ownership of intellectual property, the policy provided options for licensing of University inventions to external entities as well as to a company in which the employee/inventor holds a financial interest. In addition, it allowed for the reassignment of University ownership to the inventor who could protect and market the technology without the use of University services.

Recommended changes to the policy include:


An expanded mission statement which reaffirms the UM's commitment to technology transfer as a critical mission of the university.


Return of revenues from technology transfer to schools and colleges to support continued research and education.


Additional flexibility for on-going relationships between the inventor and the University.

With the advent of more elaborate conflict-of-interest management procedures, spurred in part by requirements imposed by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, faculty committees are now established which can provide the necessary oversight when researchers receive funds to continue work on an invention in which they have a financial interest.

"The proposed policy is the result of extensive consultations with several major U.S. universities, with U-M faculty committees, our schools and colleges, and the business community," says Robert L. Robb, director of the Technology Managment Office. "The policy is consistent with the facilitative policies of other leading institutions."

Those who wish to view the proposed policy can request a copy from the Office of the Vice President for Re search, 763-5333, or view it through OVPR's home page,