Review of University Intellectual Property Policies and Strategies

As part of work Saide’s OER Africa Initiative is doing to help in the development of suitable licensing frameworks, through a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we embarked on a process of reviewing university intellectual property (IP) policies and strategies. Neil Butcher and Sarah Hoosen present the findings.

In the current phase of our work we are taking the innovative approach of integrating a Participatory Action Research (PAR) agenda into our institutional engagements. The intention is to support four institutional partners to:

  • build a deepened understanding of how OER practices can support transformation of teaching and learning
  • ensure that such accumulating understanding is widely shared and incorporated into policy and advocacy.

For the purposes of this project, PAR is defined as ‘collaborative research, education and action to gather information to support change on social issues’. By its very nature, PAR requires strong engagement with, and leadership from, key participants to be effective.

As part of the process in the development of suitable licensing frameworks we prepared a brief paper based on a desktop review of international and South African university IP policies and strategies, in order to compile an understanding of the key issues that require coverage in an IP Strategy. The review also intended to include a specific focus on ODL institutions. However, only one IP policy from an ODL institution was located, suggesting that ODL institutions either do not have a specific IP policy or that they have not published their policy online.

The paper outlined several key issues which are commonly found within university IP policies. This includes a focus on how to determine ownership of IP which typically delineates provisions for staff and students, covers areas such as works created within the scope of employment, level of use of university facilities, and where IP rests with regard to teaching materials and research and scholarly works. It also focused on the disclosure and protection of IP, and includes university procedures that creators need to go through to register their IP. Policies also tend to tackle the issue of commercialisation or the commercial exploitation of IP, and issues such as conflict of interest and dispute resolution. Importantly, the paper also highlighted where universities make mention of open licences. The full research paper can be found here.