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
during whose tenure much of the department's experience in these
matters was gained),
the Commercialization Oversight Committee (currently
Ed Lazowska and
of Washington Center for Commercialization (UW C4C
Patrick Shelby and Mike Clarke).
If you have any involvement, questions,
or concerns, consult these individuals.
Many external activities by faculty
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
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 are supposed to be disclosed
to UW C4C,
regardless of whether or not you think UW may have an ownership
- 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 have
Don't sign these without reading them carefully, 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.
We seek to improve this page! Send us your suggestions. Better yet, implement them!
Steve Jobs on entrepreneurship:
Mr. Jobs made a lot of money over the years, for himself and
for Apple shareholders. But money never seemed to be his
principal motivation. One day in the late 1990s, Mr. Jobs
and I were walking near his home in Palo Alto. Internet
stocks were getting bubbly at the time, and Mr. Jobs spoke
of the proliferation of start-ups, with so many young
entrepreneurs focused on an "exit strategy," selling their
companies for a quick and hefty profit. "It's such a small
ambition and sad, really," Mr. Jobs said. "They should
want to build something - something that lasts."