Polish Ministry Plans IP Reform – To Shift Rights From Universities To Researchers

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Poland’s Minister of Science and Higher Education Barbara Kudrycka has announced plans to modify Poland’s intellectual property law by providing scientists with property rights to the results of their research. The ministry aims to boost innovation among Polish researchers by safeguarding that inventors receive the financial benefits generated by intellectual property rights to their inventions. Currently, the property rights are allocated to the universities which employ the scientists.

In an interview the minister gave to local news agency PAP [in Polish], Kudrycka said that the current legal framework fails to adequately reward inventors for their achievements in research. This, the Polish minister said, has negative consequences for Poland’s innovativeness.

“Currently, we have a certain dualism here. The copyright belongs to the scientist, but property rights belong to the institution which employs the scientist, for instance a university,” Kudrycka said [translation]. “In many countries, the [system] which is applied in Poland is also applied, but there are also countries which have a different [system].”

The latest proposal is part of the ministry’s wider strategy of fostering stronger ties between the country’s academic and business circles. On 25 June, addressing the Fourth Congress of Innovative Economy in Warsaw, Kudrycka spoke of the positive impact the designed modification of intellectual property rights is expected to have on Poland’s innovativeness.

“We want … to enfranchise scientists and give them the property rights to their inventions,” Kudrycka said [in Polish]. “This will serve as an impulse to commercialise the developed technological solutions. We also want business to define the fields of research which are the most vital from its point of view.”

Professor Wiesław Banyś, rector of the University of Silesia in Katowice and head of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (KRASP), told PAP [in Polish] that, under the plan, the modified bill will earmark between 10 percent and 25 percent of the revenues generated by the inventions for the inventors’ universities and research institutions. The remaining funds, representing between 75 percent and 90 percent of the generated profits, will be earmarked for inventors.

“Without such motivation we will not foster entrepreneurship among scientists,” Kudrycka said [in Polish].

Unclear IP Regulations

Meanwhile, the importance of defining the scope of profits that scientists can expect to receive from their commercialised inventions is also emphasised by other stakeholders. According to a report [in Polish] prepared for Poland’s National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR) by consultancy firm PwC, the lack of clear and transparent intellectual property regulations is one of the key factors hampering the development of groundbreaking research in Poland.

“It seems that the lack of clear rules regarding … providing inventors with an actual, significant share in profits resulting from commercialisation is of key importance in this field,” the report said [in Polish].

In July 2013, the science ministry announced the launch of public consultations on the draft modification of Poland’s higher education bill. Among a range of other issues, the ministry said [in Polish] in a statement that it is aiming to enable an “enfranchisement of scientists” at local universities and higher education institutions. The rights are to be extended to both academicians and students who are involved in research activities.

“Scientists will be the holders of property rights to the inventions and other effects of their research and scientific projects,” the ministry said in the statement [in Polish]. “The proposed changes are introduced with the aim of encouraging scientists to seek commercial application of the results of their scientific research through providing them with direct financial benefits [of such application].”

The public consultation of the draft modified bill with some of the key stakeholders precedes its finalisation by the ministry and its subsequent submission to the Polish Parliament. The stakeholders include the National Centre for Research and Development, the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland, the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Foundation for Polish Science.

Meanwhile, the regulatory impact analysis of the bill released by the ministry highlights [in Polish] that local businesses are failing to implement the results of research by local scientists. This entails the “low innovativeness of Polish companies,” the RIA document states.

Another issue pointed out by the ministry’s analysis is the role Polish universities and, in particular, their centres of technology transfer play in liaising between scientists and business. The centres’ function of ensuring that the scientists’ research is commercialised by companies is crucial for the success of technology transfer, according to the RIA document.

“The [modified bill] will also allow to increase the effectiveness of services related to the process of … commercialisation, as scientists will be free to choose entities, for instance centres of technology transfer and innovation brokers, which will guarantee [them] high-quality services,” the RIA document said [in Polish]. “Currently, with property rights owned by universities/institutes, the universities’ centres of technology transfer have a … monopoly [on commercialising the scientists’ inventions] which does not foster innovation.”

Shifting Risk to Scientists

With the ministry’s project currently debated in Poland, some representatives of the country’s academic circles are criticising the solutions it proposes. One of the arguments raised by the critics is that awarding extended intellectual property rights to researchers at the expense of universities and other institutions is likely to impose additional financial burdens on scientists.

“Contrary to the intentions of the [ministry], there is reason for concern that the proposed modification will shift the entire risk and cost of commercialising [the results of research] on its author, whom the university will be able to support only in a limited way,” the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland said in a statement [in Polish]. “[This] will discourage inventors from undertaking any actions related to commercialisation.”

Under the current system, the universities are covering the initial costs related to commercialising the results of research, which allows the scientists to focus on their work without risking their own funds, the statement said [in Polish].

“The proposed reform of intellectual property rights protection … will not bring the expected results in the field of science. It will not increase the level of innovativeness of neither the Polish science, nor the Polish economy,” the KRASP said.


Jaroslaw Adamowski may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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