‘Achieving a balance of interests is the key to resolving intellectual property issues’

On 26 April, World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated worldwide. On this day, more than half a century ago, the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was signed.

Arsen Kardanov, Head of the Main Department for Intellectual Property Use and Protection at St Petersburg University, spoke about: how St Petersburg University protects its researchers; who owns the exclusive rights to graduation projects and dissertations; and whether self-publishing of one’s own work helps prevent plagiarism.

What types of copyrights does your office deal with? Whose intellectual property rights do you need to protect? What is your scope of responsibility?

Among the priority tasks of St Petersburg University is solving the problem of legal protection of intellectual property and technology transfer. It is essential to create favourable conditions in which legal protection and technology transfer will help to transfer scientific knowledge from the research community of St Petersburg University to industry and start-ups. This knowledge will then start working for the benefit of the whole society and bring practical results.

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day will be held under the motto "IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future".

The main task in education is to ensure the maximum involvement of the educational process in technological development. The history of this approach to the protection and use of intellectual property at the University began in 1967. In 1967, the University opened the Patent and Licencing Department as a single centralised structure subordinate to the Vice-Rector for Research. The Department focused on patents and licencing for the faculties and research institutes of the University as a single education and research complex. Today, we are making every effort to develop a system for the use and protection of intellectual property in accordance with the highest international standards. This means an equal approach in protecting the interests of the University, staff, and students. However, the scope of our responsibility is stipulated in a document "Intellectual Property Policy".

How often does the University manage to defend its rights in court? A few years ago, the exclusive rights to registered trademarks, which the Urait publishing house placed on its books, were protected. Later, several more similar lawsuits were won. Are there new similar cases?

Yes, the University protects its rights to the results of intellectual activity. Court cases are a last resort. We make every effort to resolve conflicts out of court. This is the reason for the low judicial activity on the use of means of individualisation. We particularly focus on building partnerships with publishers, industrial enterprises, and other representatives of the real sector. This approach requires significant efforts of the University to negotiate and maintain business contacts. This enables us to conclude long-term mutually beneficial licencing agreements on the transfer of the right to use individualisation tools.

There is an opinion that the best way to fix copyright is to publish the text of your work yourself. This is one of the tasks that the St Petersburg University repository performs. To what extent do you agree with this statement? Doesn’t voluntary publication lead to the fact that the materials posted on the network begin to be copied more often? How do you think it can be dealt with?

The issue of publications must be approached consistently. The fact of publication is a result that must be preceded by certain work. The issue of publications must be approached from several aspects, i.e. economic and legal. Importantly, a work as an object of copyright can be created on an initiative basis, or it can also be created in the course of performing an official assignment. In the latter case, the issues of publication must be agreed upon with the University. St Petersburg University provides several publishing opportunities, including with the St Petersburg University Publishing House, which has a long history, or with third-party publishers.

As for initiative publications, the author is free to make decisions about where to place the work. There are ambiguous situations where we provide support to resolve and achieve a balance of interests of the parties. Definitely, the best way to fix copyright is to publish. Yet you have to meet certain requirements. It is in the interests of authors to use either open licence tools that makes it possible to fix and limit the scope of the rights granted, or information protection tools that prevent unwanted use.

Despite the fact that the University is the patent owner of the developments of the University scientists, the author of the invention or utility model receives a cash payment and part of the licence fee. Who is the owner of copyright for student inventions?

The best answer to this question can be found in the ‘Intellectual Property Policy’ of St Petersburg University, which we have been actively working on in recent years:

‘Exclusive rights to graduation projects, dissertations for the degree of candidate of science and doctor of science belong to their authors. In cases of research where the authors received financial support from St Petersburg University, or research conducted in whole or in part using the equipment or facilities of the University, St Petersburg University has the right to reproduce and distribute copies of the author’s work under a simple non-exclusive licence. In case of significant use of intellectual property belonging to St Petersburg University in graduation projects, dissertations for the degree of candidate of science and doctor of science, the issue of distribution of exclusive rights to intellectual property objects is considered by the head of the Main Department for Intellectual Property Use and Protection, taking into account the creative contribution of the author’.

What is the process of patenting if an international team worked on a scientific project?

The issue of obtaining protection of the results of intellectual activity and, in particular, the protection of research developments is carried out regardless of the location of the research or creative team. Regardless whether it is a Russian or an international team, the authors of a creative and research result need to agree on the creative contribution that was made by each member in the creation process. The result of this decision is a number of legal and economic consequences. For example, in proportion to the creative contribution, remuneration is paid for the creation and use of the results of intellectual activity, regardless of the research and creative field or type of intellectual property object.

In 2020, the official St Petersburg University souvenir shop was opened. Yet some companies still make products with the symbols of the University. Does St Petersburg University fight them?

For almost 300 years, the reputation and name of St Petersburg University have been associated with high-quality higher education, scientific discoveries and expert status. The name of the University and its trademarks express its reputation and positions in the form of symbols and serve to convey visual information, increasing the credibility of the objects on which they are placed. They are one of the important assets of St Petersburg University in the field of intellectual property and are subject to unconditional protection. They can therefore only be used in accordance with strict rules.

There are currently nine registered trademarks in the portfolio of St Petersburg University. Most of them received protection at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. St Petersburg University monitors companies in the souvenirs market. Yet the main department’s priority is not to fight, but to resolve such issues with market representatives in order to maintain competition and economic development. The creation and use of the results of intellectual activity, and in particular the ‘patent monopoly’, are equally of a legal and economic nature. Achieving a balance of interests is the key to resolving issues related to intellectual property.