by Becky Mahurin
Ownership of technology is becoming more complicated. A university researcher may be the sole
inventor of a new technology, but the question to be asked is, "Did he/she utilize someone
else's proprietary technology in the inventive process?"
If you have incorporated a proprietary gene sequence, or modified a proprietary protein,
then you may be the sole inventor listed on the patent, but MSU probably does not own full
rights to the new invention. Examples of proprietary materials which may be used are cultures,
cell lines, monoclonal antibodies, plasmids, nucleotides, proteins, bacteria, transgenic
plants/animals, new plant varieties, novel extracts and chemical formulations. Proprietary tools
may also be used, usually under a license or agreement. These also may have conditions regarding
products commercialized which have been created using these tools.
Always notify the Technology Transfer Office when seeking to obtain use of these proprietary entities. Not
only does it potentially affect our position when patenting the technology, it also may have
significant bearing on your ability to perform sponsored research for a third party. If, for
instance, we have agreed to give the provider of a cell line a first option to negotiate for a
license to the new technology created using this cell line, then we cannot simultaneously
perform research for a drug company in which we also provide that company with first rights to
negotiate for a license. Another example is if we insert a proprietary gene sequence into a
plant that results in a new variety, we cannot license the new plant variety without first
negotiating a license for the gene sequence.
Please keep in mind the tools and materials that you use in your research. Any Materials
Transfer Agreement or License should be reviewed and signed by either the Director of Technology Transfer Office
or the Vice President for Research. And always note on your invention disclosure form
proprietary technologies used.
If you have questions, please call me at 994-7868
Director of the Technology Transfer Office