Washington state's "Freedom to Innovate" Act Fails to Advance

Washington State Senate Bill 5247–the Freedom to Innovate Act–is effectively dead, at least for the 2013 legislative session, having failed to pass out of the Senate Higher Education Committee prior to cut-off.

If passed, the Act would have moved Washington state decisively closer to the goals outlined in the forthcoming “AAUP Recommended Principles & Practices to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships” which states, as follows, that the right of faculty to control their intellectual property extends beyond invention:

Faculty Inventor Rights and IP Management: Faculty members’ fundamental rights to direct and control their own research do not terminate when they make a new invention or other research discovery; these rights properly extend to decisions involving invention management, intellectual property (IP), licensing, commercialization, dissemination, and public use. As such, faculty inventor “assignment” of an invention to a management agent, including the university that hosted the underlying research, should be voluntary and negotiated, rather than mandatory, unless federal statutes or previous sponsored research agreements dictate otherwise. Faculty inventors and investigators retain a vital interest in the disposition of their research inventions and discoveries and should, therefore, retain rights to negotiate the terms of their disposition. The university, or its management agents, should not undertake intellectual property or legal actions directly or indirectly affecting a faculty member’s research, inventions, instruction, or public service without the faculty member’s and/or the inventor’s express consent.

While the Act did not advance during the current legislative session, State Senator Maralyn Chase has expressed an ongoing commitment to supporting faculty freedom to innovate, and academic freedom in Washington.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, March 20, 2013