Freedom to Innovate Legislation

Washington State Senate Bill 5247 (the Freedom to Innovate Act) was introduced in the Washington state legislature in 2013. State senator Maralyn Chase introduced the legislation and is committed to a continuing effort to have it adopted. The language used draws on Principle 11 from the AAUP’s IP report. Faculty members in other states have expressed interest in encouraging similar legislation. Some adjustments in language may be necessary to fit the laws in particular states, but the basic principle is widely applicable: that states, through their universities, should not take inventions—personal property—as a condition of employing faculty, allowing them the use of resources that are ordinarily provided to faculty to do their work, and releasing them to participate in extramural sponsored research. The purpose of the legislation is not only to promote academic freedom but also to create conditions favorable to personal initiative and innovation. The book-length report Recommended Principles to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships provides detailed arguments about why enforced, involuntary university ownership of faculty IP is not in anyone’s best interest.

There are typically two places in a state's laws where such a statute might be placed.  One is employee-inventor protections, such as California Labor Code 2870.  The other is in the statutes pertaining to public universities. Then there are statutes like Ohio 3345.14, which claims everything and reserves to the trustees to decide what to deal with. The constitutionality of the Ohio law is yet to be tested; the US Supreme Court’s 2011 Stanford v. Roche decision, which reaffirms faculty ownership of their patentable inventions, may raise the basis for a challenge to the Ohio law.