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September 16, 2002

Gerald Barnett named director for intellectual property management

By Tim Stephens

UCSC has appointed Gerald Barnett as director of the campus's new Office for the Management of Intellectual Property. Before coming to UCSC, Barnett was director of software and copyright ventures at the University of Washington, where he developed one of the leading university programs for software and information product management in the United States.

Gerald Barnett Photo: UCSC Photo Services

The management of intellectual property is an increasingly important issue for research universities, said Robert Miller, vice chancellor for research, who spearheaded the creation of the new office.

"We are thrilled to have Gerald Barnett come here to establish a new office designed to help faculty, students, and staff manage appropriately the intellectual property arising out of their scholarly activities," Miller said. "UCSC is now in a position to deploy information, data, software, copyright-based materials, and patented technologies in the public interest. We are also in a position to establish enhanced relationships with public and private corporations. Enhanced activity in this arena demands professional expertise to deal with the wide complexities of intellectual property management."

Intellectual property (IP) refers to certain intangible assets protected by law--mainly patents, copyrights, and trademarks, as well as some kinds of technical information (i.e., "trade secrets"). Intellectual property from research and other creative activities at UCSC has the potential to grow significantly in the next three years with the expansion of the Baskin School of Engineering and other initiatives, Barnett said.

"Our aim is to use these rights of innovation to create productive relationships for the university," he said. "IP management is all too often construed as finding things of commercial value and licensing them for money. That is one element of IP management, but it shouldn't come to dominate. More broadly, IP management is about how a university interacts with the community."

Barnett will work with UC's systemwide Office of Technology Transfer on the licensing of patents and inventions for commercial use. This can result in income for the campus if the license leads to a product that generates royalties.

"That's a rare occurrence, but we'd like it to happen," Barnett said.
Intellectual property issues arise in the arts and humanities as well as in science and engineering. The use of digital media in the arts, the fair use of copyrighted materials, and even the simple publication of a manuscript are all areas where expertise in intellectual property management can be helpful, he said.

Barnett brings a unique background to his position. He earned a B.S. degree in mathematics and physics from Walla Walla College in Washington, and stayed there for another year to earn a B.A. degree in English. He then went on to the University of Washington (UW), where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature. As a graduate assistant, Barnett helped start UW's Humanities and Arts Computing Center, where he provided project development advice and computer programming support.

Barnett later joined the intellectual property and technology transfer office at UW, with lead responsibility for innovations involving software and digital media. There he worked with Miller, who was UW's vice provost for intellectual property and technology transfer before coming to UCSC.

"At UW, Barnett became, in my opinion, the premier software licensing and copyright officer in the U.S. in a university environment," Miller said. "He developed new strategies for licensing software and copyrighted materials, and those licenses have generated a lot of revenue for the university and for the support of research."

Intellectual property issues can be especially complex in the area of computer software and other kinds of "information products," such as databases and web sites, Barnett said. Such products tend to have multiple forms of intellectual property associated with them, and university policies often treat these different forms of intellectual property differently.

"You may have patents, copyrights, web domain names, and trade secrets all at once for a simple piece of software code that you just want to give away. So for a software package you might have to bring together people who have different ownership interests and work out an agreement," Barnett said.
The other element that makes software a tricky area for IP management is the culture of sharing among software developers, which has led to the "open source" movement that promotes the free distribution of the primary source codes for software programs.

"Intellectual property tends to be managed in a way that cuts across this culture of sharing and places ownership questions where people would rather not have them, so you have to be careful not to interfere with these exchanges, but rather to try to augment or preserve them," Barnett said. "Some people see an inherent conflict between the public interest and intellectual property. But there are some good management protocols that may actually help keep software exchanges open. I think we can use intellectual property to accomplish things that the faculty desire, and do it in a way that benefits both the university and the public interest."

Barnett said research universities have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate how new protocols for IP management can contribute to the deployment of and investment in innovation. A central concept, he said, is the idea of a "technology commons," where information and technology are exchanged freely, while commercial interests are asked not only to respect the exchange but also to support it with financial or in-kind contributions.

"I'm interested in seeing enterprise develop around university innovation, including service companies, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and for-profit initiatives to develop new products," Barnett said. "Research universities such as UCSC are recognizing the responsibilities that come with public funding for technology-based research, and are participating in the effort to bring innovation into community use."

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