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Task Force on Managing University Intellectual Property

The APLU Task Force on Managing University Intellectual Property published a set of recommendations in March, 2015: Statement to APLU Members of Recommendations on Managing University Intellectual Property. The Task Force’s recommendations were included in the article titled Technology Transfer for All the Right Reasons, featured in the Volume 18, Number 4, March 2017 publication of Technology & Innovation.

Since October of 2014, the task force has been engaging in an examination of the purposes of university innovation, technology transfer, commercialization, and entrepreneurship, and reviewing related materials and input from APLU members. The task force has helped to shape a critically needed response to questions from the public and policy makers regarding the extent to which universities are managing intellectual property for the public good.

Responsible for economic development, innovation, or technology transfer on an APLU member campus? Join APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement (CECE).


Following is a summary of the recommendations, details of which are included in the March 2015 report:

  • University leaders should follow the recommendation of the National Research Council’s 2011 report, Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest, to create a clear university IP policy.
  • University leaders should make visible existing institutional policies that restrict the university from working with entities that acquire intellectual property rights with no real intention of commercializing the technologies.
  • University leaders should review and support to the extent practical the document In the Public Interest: Nine Points to Consider in Licensing University Technology, and align IP management policies and practices with the Nine Points.
  • University leaders should identify and implement innovative and effective approaches to managing university IP, and more broadly to engaging with entrepreneurs and industry, and*work*to*emulate*practices*that*have been effectively adopted by peers.
  • University leaders should develop a framework for assessing intellectual property practice to include multiple measures that capture and reflect the university’s IP management mission.


A question has persisted in Washington and elsewhere–are universities managing their intellectual property for the public good? Many seem to believe that universities are using government funded intellectual property primarily for university gain. It is important that we examine university intellectual policy and practice to be sure we address this perception.

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 effectively established the field of university technology transfer. It has proven to be quite successful as a public policy instrument for encouraging innovation and increasing the translation of university research into technology useful to society. We recognize that future policy initiatives will no doubt be impacted in part by how we practice technology transfer, for what purpose, and how we communicate the purpose.

As additional background, attached is the summary section of the 2011 National Academies report, Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest. The report is undoubtedly more than you will want to read but note that the first recommendation of this report (see page 4) is for university leadership to clarify the goals and purposes of their technology transfer operations, and in particular, to make clear that these goals and purposes have more to do with serving the public interest than they do with generating revenue.

The task force is addressing a number of questions related to these issues, including Why are our universities engaged in technology transfer? and How can we shape public understanding of the role universities play in stimulating economic growth through the management of intellectual property and its transfer?

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