In a dispute over patents, the University of Waterloo recently took legal action against an on-campus startup trying to commercialize a battery that could store power longer and more safely than standard lithium-ion batteries.

The university seeks a declaration that it owns patents which the students claim as theirs. The students invented the technology in a lab partly funded by an agreement between UW and an industry partner which gave UW ownership of the intellectual property generated from that funding. For their part, the students obtained the patents with help from the university’s campus incubator. In other words, UW, through its incubator system, helped its students patent an invention that it simultaneously claims to own. An e-mail from UW’s director of research partnerships, referenced in a Globe and Mail story about the dispute, describes “a hole in our process.”

These holes are more like chasms and not just at University of Waterloo.


This article first appeared in The Globe & Mail.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.
  • Myra J. Tawfik

    Myra J. Tawfik is a senior fellow at CIGI, where she leads a project that explores strategies for capacity building in IP literacy, IP strategy and cost-effective IP legal services for start-ups and entrepreneurs. This project also sets out models and best practices for comprehensive IP literacy within the public sector entrepreneurial support system. She is the co-creator (with Karima Bawa) of the CIGI Massive Open Online Course, “Foundations of IP Strategy.” A book on the subject of IP strategy for innovators, co-authored with Karima Bawa, will be published in summer 2019.

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