Malleable, not mandatory: simpler IP agreements

Universities and industry need a flexible guiding intellectual property framework to propel further commercialisation, not the handbrake of mandatory one-size-fits-all templates, the nation’s peak body for science and technology has said.

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In its submission to the University Research Commercialisation Scheme Working Group, Science & Technology Australia has called for proposed new standard IP templates to retain crucial flexibility to negotiate variations.

While welcoming moves to make it easier for industry and researchers to collaborate, STA has cautioned strongly against adopting a rigid mandatory framework.

“Negotiating IP agreements can be complex and time consuming – so having standard templates as a guide to start that process is helpful,” said STA Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert.

“But that shouldn’t tie the hands of the parties and strip them of the freedom to negotiate variations that suit them – a one-size-fits-all template won’t be right for every commercial situation.”

“Just as with employment contracts, there will often be cases where both parties want to start with a standard contract but vary some of the terms.”

“Governments shouldn’t be tying the hands of the parties by making a standard agreement mandatory – sensible flexibility should be kept.”

The Fair Work Commission produces standard employment contracts as a resource, but employers and employees can vary the terms to suit their business and personal circumstances, so long as the minimum legal employment standards are met.

“Used in a non-mandatory way, an IP framework and templates could simplify and speed up the process for researchers and universities, and encourage industry to commercialise more great Australian ideas and innovations.”

Other key recommendations from STA’s submission include:

  • Include a simple-language explanation outlining the reason and effect of contract clauses with the template to assist industry partners, plus offer webinars to build skills and knowledge on effective research translation.
  • Develop a robust IP Assignment Deed for PhD students.
  • Offer indicative average royalty figures to assist both industry and universities to arrive at a fair arrangement quickly.

The full submission is available here.

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