How one university established a way of monitoring IP leakage

Leakage of intellectual property is not usually considered a major issue for most universities, but the prospect of its consequences is compelling enough that many may wonder about it and ponder how to deal with it.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), administrators have spent roughly a decade working on the issue and fine-tuning their approach. They feel that their current practices give them a good view of the landscape and a leg up on how to approach any leakage that may occur.

Dealing with leakage can mean several things, depending on the circumstances. In private industry, experts might monitor databases, social media and emails for employees who share valuable and/or sensitive information, knowingly or unknowingly, with outside entities.

For many TTOs, however, the question often boils down to making sure that they have a handle on patents assigned to the university that should be filed compared with those that have been filed.

That is the approach taken at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which is the university’s patenting and licensing organization. Justin Anderson, an attorney who is WARF’s senior intellectual property manager, says the monitoring system began taking shape about a decade ago out of curiosity regarding the question of IP leakage — not because of any perceived or identified problem.

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