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In Wilson and Gray the respective university intellectual property policies were held to be ineffective. The Federal Court therefore had to examine the default law concerning academic ownership of inventions. The trial judge in Wilson accepted that inventions that were a normal incident of the kind of research a particular academic was engaged to perform may belong to the employing university. However, French J and the Full Court in Gray emphasised that academic autonomy, duty to publish and freedom to collaborate with outsiders set academics apart. Employer ownership of inventions is therefore not to be implied into standard academic employment contracts, which are of a separate kind. A duty to research does not equate to a duty to further the university's commercial interests by pursuing patentable inventions, as is by contrast required of researchers in industry. This article examines the rulings in Wilson and Gray and explores what they mean for the structure and terms of university intellectual property policies in the future.
This document has been peer reviewed.