do not protect the ideas themselves. Thus, when a researcher writes an article or a book, a copyright (which may be transferred to the publisher) applies to the words and images in the publication, but others can use the ideas in that publication with proper attribution. Someone can make fair use of copyrighted material for nonprofit uses, such as research or education, but they cannot use the material in a way that would reduce its market value.

Industry often relies on trade secrets to maintain control over commercially valuable information generated through research. In this case, there is no requirement to make the idea public, though there is also no protection against the idea being developed independently at another research site. Legal action can be taken against someone who reveals a secret or against someone who obtains a secret illegally.

Most research institutions have policies that specify how intellectual property should be handled. These policies may specify how research data are collected and stored, how and when results can be published, how intellectual property rights can be transferred, how patentable inventions should be disclosed, and how royalties from patents are allocated. Also, patent law differs from country to country, and researchers need to take these differences into account when they are working on projects in other countries or in collaboration with researchers in other countries.

In some cases, the obligations of researchers who are doing potentially patentable work may delay the publication of scientific results. Thesis advisers and research supervisors need to make beginning researchers aware of this possibility, given the importance of publication in advancing their careers. Publication of researchers’ work should not be delayed for unreasonable amounts of time to protect potentially patentable results. Decisions on whether to file a patent application should be made as quickly as possible. University technology transfer offices are a useful resource on these issues.

Institutional policies may or may not address some of the more



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement