Guest Post: UND Intellectual Property Policy Exploits Student Innovation and Harms Education

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On April 12th, UND Administrator Michael Moore responded to my letter to the Grand Forks Herald in which I expressed the need to protect students’ intellectual property. Moore’s letter defended the University policy, saying that UND already has an existing policy governing I.P. rights that “was developed in coordination with the State Board of Higher Education’s policy.”

The problem is not that the University lacks a policy regulating intellectual property; the problem is that the policy does not have students as its top priority. The University is not merely stifling students’ creativity and innovation: they have codified it.

Students in every academic program create what is considered ‘intellectual property,’ which could be anything from a medical breakthrough, new invention, song, website, or anything else falling under the University’s vague definition of I.P.

The University policy asserts claim on any I.P. developed as a result of a student “utilizing UND’s facilities, laboratories, or other resources,” or “was created under the direction of any faculty member” employed by the University.

So, if a student reaches out to a professor for guidance regarding an idea for a new business, creates a new invention for a class project, or discovers a medical breakthrough during personal research and testing at one of the school’s laboratories, the University may take claim on the I.P. and seize the majority of the resulting profits.

Does this seem ‘right’ or ‘fair,’ after the student has already paid thousands of dollars in tuition and fees for that access? Students have paid their debt to the college and rightfully deserve the subsequent benefits of their investment, hard work and dedication.

The University policy deters students from seeking the kind of assistance from professors that is critical to their intellectual growth. I’m not trying to sound anti-administration, but it is clear that this policy does not exist for the benefit of students. Students are supposed to be the focus of good education policy. On our campus, we have benevolent professors warning students about what they should and should not discuss in class and eventually submit for assessment (if this does not signal a serious problem, I do not know what could).

We have students who refuse to bring their best ideas into the classroom because they fear that UND will seize their ideas and hard-earned profits. University administrators may be blissfully unaware of these occurrences, but students will tell you that they happen nonetheless.

Thankfully, the solution to this serious problem can be found across the river, where the policy adopted by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) guarantees that students maintain ownership of the intellectual property they create. Their policies forbid a university from making a claim on student I.P. unless the student is specifically hired by the university to develop a product or service.

Students need to be protected and if I am elected, I will introduce a bill protecting student intellectual property. Our students deserve it.

John Mitzel is the GOP Endorsed Candidate for ND House in District 42. Mitzel is a Banking & Financial
Economics student at UND. More information on his campaign can be found at www.johnmitzel.org or
on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JohnMitzelforND

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