19 Feb 2008

Trade Secrets and the University: Can They Co-Exist?

Traditional University norms and practices includes Dissemination of Knowledge (public purpose) and Faculty-student publishing requirement. Apart from this the purpose of a University in Traditional setup is Training of students and having Open campuses. As a result of this there is the much needed student interaction, collaborations with peers and academic freedom.

Now the
Modern University setup which invents on Government and private funding (eg. MIT, University of Chicago and new addition is India's very own IITs) generally protects the inventions via Patents eventually put the same in public domain and license or assign the same as per the pre existing contracts with funding agency or as per the university policy. But the case for Trade Secrets can in no circumstance be the same.

Trade Secrets in a University are largely derived from Research and Computer Code Development. The use of Trade Secrets in a University setup is for :

  1. Licensed alone for commercial use (often called “Know-how” licenses)
  2. Licensed as part of software source code licensing

The essential elements required for a trade secret are Information of the employer, not generally known to the public, of commercial value and the released only with protection against further disclosure

Thus the Trade Secrets in a University set up not only put limitations to the concept of open campuses and faculty student interaction but also to a large extent curb the academic freedom which the universities have enjoyed over the years.

The big question is that in this capital driven world can the Trade Secrets and Universities co- exist?

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