An upcoming “Celebration of Innovators” here at Baby It’s Cold Outside reminded me to remind all of yuns about the importance of protecting any unpublished data and intellectual property submitted as part of a federal grant application BEFORE said application receives an award (ie, funding).
In the course of my work, I regularly recognize IP in grant applications that should be reported to the Office of Technology Management (often called tech transfer) prior to submission and encourage the PI to do so … and then send a heads-up note to the appropriate licensing manager since I know the PI will not take the time to contact OTM. This Office is completely divorced from my office (different reporting lines & everything), so these folks were initially surprised to hear from me but appreciate the vigilance during grant review.
More importantly & instructively, also in the course of my work, I contact PIs with funded applications to invite them to contribute the narrative to a repository of successful proposals that serve as exemplars for other faculty. I have been dismayed to receive notes back saying there was too much unpublished data and unprotected IP to share the proposal, even internally (& who knows how many PIs who never respond keep silent for the same reason). Please ask again in a year or so, when protections have been made. After giving the PI the bad news that his/her funded proposal is actually in the public domain (open to FOIA requests) and their IP publicly disclosed, I immediately forward the distressing message to OTM to see if they can salvage anything. Even these salvage operations could be futile, which is a damn shame since the PI knew enough to think his/her IP needed to be protected – just no clue as to when or how.
Take home message: steps to protect IP (eg, invention disclosure) must be taken before a federal award is made, which means before the grant application is submitted. No matter how busy you are. Period.