This page is intended as a repository of information for students, staff, and faculty regarding outside professional work (e.g., consulting), commercialization, intellectual property, non-disclosure agreements, conflicts of interest, and related issues. Key resources include the Commercialization Oversight Committee (currently Ed Lazowska and Kurtis Heimerl), and UW CoMotion. (The Allen School's principal CoMotion liaison, Laura Dorsey, is excellent.) Faculty members Shyam Gollakota, Shwetak Patel, and Josh Smith also have a lot of experience. If you have any involvement, questions, or concerns, consult these individuals. Many external activities require consultation with the Commercialization Oversight Committee and CoMotion, as well as understanding the GIM 10 guidelines and filing 1460 approval forms. Better safe than sorry. Check with the Commercialization Oversight Committee. The high-order bits:

  • CoMotion and the Allen School's Commercialization Oversight Committee are your friends. Utilize them - don't try to end-run them. Our experience is that CoMotion adds much more value than it "costs." It's really dumb to "sneak around." Play it straight. Consult CoMotion and the Allen School's Commercialization Oversight Committee first.
  • Read the web page linked from the Outside Activity Guidance tab above. Err on the side of filing Forms 1460 (faculty/staff) / 1555 (students) - doing so places you under a "safe harbor" that offers important protections.
  • UW CoMotion has resources to help you spin out a startup. Their job, like our job, is to make your innovation story a success.
  • 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 CoMotion, 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 Allen School 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.
  • Importantly - and as noted in the previous point - many of the requirements regarding disclosure, negotiation, etc., exist for your protection: they provide insulation from accusations of inappropriate conduct. It is an error to mis-construe these requirements as "institutional grabbiness."
  • 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.

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