Seth Nehrbass
When someone mentions scientists and lawyers in the same breath, one of the first images that comes to mind could be expert witnesses poring over complex graphs of DNA evidence, as in the O.J. Simpson trial. But the legal matters that concern most researchers are much more mundane--intellectual property law, employment agreements, and the like, not the stuff of sensationalistic headlines. In general, scientists have no clue about the law and how it affects their work, say attorneys and technology transfer specialists. To be fair, "They're just not trained to do that," says Seth Nehrbass, a patent attorney with Garvey, Smith, Nehrbass & Doody in New Orleans, La., who works with researchers.

Still, there are many areas that can impinge on a researcher's work: patent and licensing rights, trade secret issues, and copyright law, for example. These areas vary somewhat between academia and industry. For instance,...

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