Intellectual Property Policy


Swarthmore College is a community of creative thinkers and therefore the College recognizes that intellectual property is created by individuals, or groups of individuals. Academic freedom, including the freedom to choose how to disseminate creations, has higher priority than possible financial rewards, to the individuals or to the College. Specifically, the College will not be driven in its approach to intellectual property by a desire to develop new sources of revenue.

In addition, the College does not want to claim intellectual property in cases where making that claim may stifle or put procedural roadblocks in the way of creative endeavors or the dissemination of scholarly work.

An important way for the College to encourage creation and dissemination of intellectual property is to provide various types of production and dissemination support. In return, when it provides substantial support, the College is entitled to recoup costs, be granted certain usage or ownership rights, and receive a share of any financial returns.

The College does have a claim to intellectual property in which it has an identity or functional interest. The College has an identity interest in IP that is more integral to, and reflects more directly on, the identity of the College than on the identity of the individuals who create it. In particular, it has an identity interest in items disseminated beyond the College, such as the catalog, institutional web pages, the alumni bulletin, admissions brochures, and campaign materials. (What is meant by institutional web pages is elaborated later.) The College has a functional interest in IP that is used or intended to be used to ensure the effective functioning, coordination and management of ongoing operations. For example, it has a functional interest in administrative and personnel procedures, including software, and internal handbooks and reports. (It may also have an identity interest in the latter two examples.)

Therefore, ownership of any IP produced with only normal support (see the definitions) and in which the College does not have an identity or functional interest shall default to the creator. Ownership of any IP in which the College does have an identity or functional interest shall default to the College, regardless of level of support.

The College has the right to protect its good name and therefore will have a say in the dissemination of any intellectual property that suggests endorsement, for instance, by the use of the College name or logo.

When community members working on a group project negotiate IP rights among themselves, they are under an obligation to recognize fairly each other's contributions, and the College should attempt to ensure that this obligation is met.

The College recognizes that even when IP is clearly the property of individuals, those individuals may wish to transfer rights to the College in exchange for help in developing, disseminating, and protecting their creations. The College will readily consider such requests. Such requests are especially recommended when the IP is created by a group.

Conversely, in some cases government legislation, regulations and case law dictate that IP ownership resides with the College, but the College stands willing to transfer such rights or parts of such rights back to individuals or their designees, to the extent allowed by law, if to do so is consistent with the policies herein explained.

Similarly, grant sponsors will often have positions on how IP created under their grants should be assigned. The grant applicant, along with the College, should attempt to align the grant conditions with the College policies herein explained, but the conditions specified in any grant, if accepted, shall apply.

The College expects that intellectual property policy will evolve, as its mission evolves and as the types of intellectual property evolve. As the policy evolves, consideration will be given to equalizing the traditions of intellectual policy rights in different parts of the College community.

For staff, the extent to which the College asserts ownership of the IP they produce has depended on the traditions of the staff member's specific affiliation, and these differences can generally be justified on the basis of the principle of identity or functional interest. For example, College librarians sometimes undertake professional activities of a scholarly nature, in which the College does not have a functional or identity interest. Such IP defaults to the librarians. On the other hand, in almost all cases, the College does have a functional interest in the work of ITS Staff. For instance, the College must have the rights to control the computer code produced by ITS staff in order to guarantee the smooth administrative functioning of the institution. Such IP belongs to the College. When staff works in a support role for faculty engaged in traditional faculty works, and the staff role falls within normal support for faculty, ownership of the IP produced will default to the faculty.

For information on the determination of IP rights and further matters, please refer to the complete document at the web site listed above.