Intellectual property can be thought of as a bundle of activity rights around an idea or expression that can be withheld or granted in strategic ways to achieve some goal centered on that idea or expression. When the owner of these rights grants permission for others to do these activities, they are licensing these rights. The rights associated with the types of intellectual property that IIP deals with are:
- Patents: to use, sell, offer for sale, make, or import the tangible embodiment of the idea covered in the patent.
- Copyrights: to copy, distribute, create derivatives, display, and perform the work covered by the copyright.
- Trademarks: to use the word(s) or mark to identify a product or service.
The licensing of these rights is the tool that IIP uses to promote the use and increase the impact of PSU innovations. This tool can be used in different ways, depending on the project goals and the type of intellectual property involved. The rights can be licensed separately or all together, can be licensed exclusively to one party or non-exclusively to many, can be licensed by geographic territory or by market segment and use, and can come with restrictions and considerations that allow us to shape how the underlying innovation is used.
The licensing of patents is most often used for allowing companies the ability to commercialize products and services from PSU innovations. To ensure that the innovation is developed (and developed in a way we would like), we will license the rights with conditions that either mark deadlines for commercial development or directly guide how an end product or service will be deployed. For example, we might grants rights on the condition that a first sale is made by a certain date, or that a start-up company achieves an adequate level of funding or has experienced management by a certain date. For life-saving drugs or technologies directed to quality of life in developing countries, we might include a condition that the products be offered at cost, with no markup, in those countries. These conditions must be weighed against the ability of the company to operate efficiently and reach our shared goals without undue burden, and the conditions are often a point of negotiation when putting together a patent license. We will also include non-negotiable provisions that legally protect the university and restrictions to keep us in compliance with regulations we are subject to as recipients of federal funding for research.
The licensing of copyrights can be used for allowing commercialization of a copyrighted work, but also has many other uses centered around use and distribution. We might provide the right for external partners to copy and distribute a training manual, but not to create derivatives, under the condition that our name stays on the material and that PSU gets attribution for its development. We might license a collection of data to other partners, providing the right to copy, create derivatives, and distribute, but under the condition that they check back once a year to ensure that the data they are using is the most current available. We might license and distribute learning software to many educational institution partners around the country but stipulate that they are not allowed to charge their users to use the software. All of these rights and restrictions are targeted to use and impact of the innovations while still being tailored to the particular goals of the researchers and projects.
Open Source and Creative Commons are two common license schemes that rely on copyright to distribute software and other works in controlled ways. These schemes are based in part on increasing use and impact, and PSU will readily employ them when they meet the needs of the researcher and project.