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OTD evaluates invention disclosures for their commercial potential. We typically review an invention with its inventor to learn about the potential applications, as well as to explore potential development and commercialization strategies. We develop a licensing strategy considering many factors including the technical and market risks. We also actively identify companies that might be interested in the invention through a variety of methods including extensive databases developed in-house as well as commercial databases. We create a non-confidential summary of the inventions with the inventor’s input and then directly market to these companies.
OTD has signature authority on behalf of the University for license/option agreements and other agreements that pertain to intellectual property. University faculty and other University staff are not authorized to sign agreements that obligate the University to assign or license intellectual property rights to another entity.
We encourage and welcome inventor input as a source of leads for potential licensees, for giving us a professional assessment of the technical and market feasibility of the invention, and for suggestions on how to approach the licensing of a specific technology. We also feel it is vital for inventors to know our strategy for licensing their technology. Inventors do not, however, participate in the actual negotiations of license agreements with potential licensees. Although we give careful consideration to the inventor’s input and strive to keep them informed throughout the process, it is our belief that the conflicts that may arise from an inventor's multiple potential roles and relationships, such as a University researcher, royalty recipient, company consultant, and potential board member, make such participation unwise.
OTD will notify inventors when it is in the process of negotiating an agreement with a specific company before signing an exclusive license agreement. If several inventions are being included in a license agreement, the inventors will be informed if the inventions are not being valued equally and how resulting income will be divided among the various inventions. If an inventor believes a potential licensee is inappropriate as an exclusive licensee, or does not agree with the proposed allocation among the various inventions, it is a matter for further discussion.
For inventors who have a close or significant affiliation with a potential exclusive licensee (for example, as a consultant, stockholder, board member, etc.) OTD must be particularly mindful of conflict of interest issues. Harvard has a specific conflict of interest policy which deals with these situations. If an inventor requests that we license a specific technology to a particular company, OTD must ensure that any prospective corporate partner demonstrate that it has the necessary financing and management to be an effective licensee. Because specific license terms are generally considered confidential business information, if OTD shares such information with an inventor, the inventor must agree to retain that information as confidential. However, when there are conflict of interest issues, OTD may decide that sharing licensee terms with the inventor (even confidentially) would be inappropriate. OTD is available to provide information and assistance so faculty is aware of and appropriately addresses any conflict of interest issues that may arise as part of a start-up venture. Such issues often arise when faculty are involved in professional activities outside of Harvard.
A compilation of Harvard University policies on conflict of interest/commitment is available on the Conflicts Page.