The University of Pennsylvania encourages Penn faculty to engage in consulting for companies and other for-profit and non-for-profit organization. The policy on consulting does not require the faculty to obtain advance approval of their planned consulting activity, but it is the faculty’s responsibility to make sure that the consulting arrangement with the company complies with the University patent policy. The Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) can help faculty by reviewing consulting agreements to assure its compliance with Penn policy and protection of researcher’s interests.
Some simple guidelines for consulting research are as follows:
- The commitment to all the consulting work cannot exceed one day a week;
- The default policy of the university is to claim ownership of all intellectual property (IP) generated by faculty members, graduate students and research personnel;
- If there is potential for the creation of new intellectual property from the consulting research, it is important to be aware of any overlap between the consulting research and the research areas that are being pursued by the faculty member or areas that have been pursued in the past. If the faculty member believes that the ownership of the IP belongs to the party sponsoring the consulting research, it is important to clarify the nature of such overlap with the Deputy Dean and arrive at an understanding before the consulting project begins.
- If the consulting research area overlaps to any extent with research that has been funded by or is being funded by a federal granting agency, there are federal guidelines for the ownership of intellectual property. Once again, the default position is that the University owns the IP.
In cases where the consulting is with the company that sponsors research in the researcher’s laboratory, the proposed consulting agreement should be disclosed to the Deputy Dean before the consulting activity begins. The Deputy Dean can advise the faculty on possible avenues for managing conflict or refer the issue to the Conflict of Interest Committee. More information about potential sources of conflict of interest is available in the faculty handbook.