Commercialization

This page is intended as a repository of information for students, staff, and faculty regarding commercialization, intellectual property, non-disclosure agreements, conflicts of interest, and related issues.

Key resources include the department chair (Hank Levy), the past-chair (Ed Lazowska), during whose tenure much of the department's experience in these matters was gained), the Commercialization Oversight Committee (currently Ed Lazowska and Oren Etzioni), and the University of Washington Center for Commercialization (UW C4C ) (specifically Patrick Shelby and Mike Clarke).

If you have any involvement, questions, or concerns, consult these individuals.

Many external activities require consultation with the Commercialization Oversight Committee and C4C, as well as the filing of GIM-10 and 1460 approval forms. Better safe than sorry. Check with the Commercialization Oversight Committee.

The high-order bits:

  • UW C4C and the CSE Commercialization Oversight Committee are your friends. Utilize them - don't try to end-run them. Our experience is that UW C4C adds much more value than it "costs." It's really dumb to "sneak around." Play it straight. Consult UW C4C and the CSE Commercialization Oversight Committee first.
  • UW is the "primary employer" of faculty, staff, and students. As such, your UW employment agreement trumps other agreements (e.g., consulting or internship agreements). All commercializable inventions must be disclosed to UW C4C, regardless of whether or not you think UW may have an ownership position.
  • Students and faculty need to be aware of the intellectual property implications of specific research projects, and - increasingly - need to "partition their work" in order to avoid conflicts. Working at UW with someone who is employed by Adobe, Google, Intel, Microsoft, etc.? That company has an ownership position in joint innovations. Funded by Intel under an arrangement that requires technology to be placed in the public domain? Gotta do it. Etc.
  • Conflicts of interest aren't "bad" - they're unavoidable, and they need to be disclosed and managed. The situations that require the greatest care are when a faculty-student or faculty-staff relationship extends outside the university - for example, when a faculty member is involved with a startup company that employs a student or staff member as a consultant or employee. In a case such as this, both CSE and UW policies require that an independent faculty member be appointed to monitor the situation. This provides protection, and a resource, for all concerned. It is all parties' responsibility to report such situations to the Commercialization Oversight Committee so that appropriate safeguards can be put into place.
  • Even something as apparently innocuous as a summer employment agreement presented to a graduate student by a company may be fraught with peril. Don't sign these without reading these web pages and/or seeking advice.
  • VCs will sometimes attempt to pit you against UW. Don't fall for it.
  • Oren Etzioni, holder of the Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Endowed Professorship, has particular interest and expertise in coaching student entrepreneurs. Student entrepreneurs should be sure to consider the outstanding Business Plan Competition held annually by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.

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