Investigators are often a key to success in the expanding world of collaborations between industry and universities. Yet, unlike the company and the university, the investigator is rarely represented by legal counsel. This is often the case whether the investigator serves as an independent consultant to the company or engages in company-funded research performed at the university.

This situation may help to explain why university-industry relationships are plagued with controversies, including those affecting patents and ownership, publications, material exchanges, and increasing secretiveness. Yet the numbers of university-generated patents, licensing transactions, and funded research efforts have increased dramatically over recent years. Though companies and universities are always well represented in these matters, investigators themselves typically rely on the institution's legal counsel, or none at all.

What, if anything, can be done about this? One solution that remains unexplored is legal representation for investigators.

The patent laws themselves form the basis for...

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