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

John Mitzel

John Mitzel is a University of North Dakota student, and a Senator in the UND student government.

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  • Tim Heise

    good points

  • Ndconservative2011

    Mitzel is simply pandering to the students in search of votes during the June Primary.
    How about Mitzel broaching the subject of malfeasance of the Board of Higher Education, Dickinson State, and NDSU.
    Maybe he could explain how he would approach the excessive spending at the state level.
    Also, he could explain his thoughts regarding Measure #2.
    I guess it is easier and more political correct to pander.

    • Guest

      Maybe he’s not acting like a frothing, ultra-right wing hater because he is in a political race.  If I had to guess, that’s what I’d peg it to.

    • Matthew

      This is a legitimate issue. It effects his constituents. John is actually saying what he would do. This is how we want politicians to act.

      If you want to know his positions on other issues, ask him. It does not mean he shouldn’t comment on this one. In the long run this issue has more meaning than the nickname. This is actually about education.

      • Ndconservative2011

        If I lived in Grand Forks, I would not be too excited about John Mitzel as a candidate.  Apparantly pandering is his poticial tool of choice.
        His breaking of the law just 15 days after his endorsement does show his lack of maturity.

  • moors710

    When I went to UND the University said they would give me 40% of licensing profits.  Since I designed in Black projects I figured I could convert into the unclassified world some things I developed but remained unpatented due to classification problems in my developments (they were Top Secret) for some relatively quick profits.  The University professors said the thing I had FLYING in the military, were not possible and I was mistaken.  I after three tries I left UND.

    • Matthew

       What lab at UND is licensed to do classified research?

      • moors710

        I figured I could convert into the unclassified world some things I
        developed but remained unpatented due to classification problems in my
        developments (they were Top Secret) for some relatively quick profits.

        None

        My Top Secret research was for military contracts elsewhere. The actual designs were classified and so the research, but the knowledge I gained not itself classified, just its connection to certain military systems.

  • Matthew

    UND’s position is far outside the norm for major research universities.  Most universities give the inventor ownership of their invention except in two instances.

    1.  They are also employees as Research Assistants.  Employees inventions are the universities, though they get royalties if it is commercialized, usually around 1/3.

    2.  To work in some professors labs students will have to assign their rights to the university.  If they don’t they can’t work in the lab.  This is often done because the work in the lab is being sponsored by either the government or some other entity and the IP rights have already been contracted away.

    If you do get elected I caution you about just adopting Minnesota’s law.  Review other state laws.   The University of Washington and University of Wisconsin both are large research universities and their policies may be helpful.

    The federal Bayh-Dole law controls all IP that is created under federal sponsorship.

    Also professional organizations can help.  The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) would be a good resource.  They are knowledgeable and I am sure they would love to create a model law.

    This issue isn’t as simple as saying that students own their inventions.  Make sure you understand all the issues before you write the law.

  • Bobby

    not a bad effort. University ownership of IP when created by an employee under contract (as a condition of that contract) is one thing, stripping student ownership is flatly strange. Measure two is championed by a hypocritical “judge”, the issue is dead in the water.

  • ec99

    Look around the country.  The central priority for most public universities is generating revenue.  Whether that be be trough spiraling up enrollment and tuition, skimming off facultty grants, or making off with patents from the work of others.

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