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The Oxford case was one of the first occasions on which a UK university has taken on a company in major commercial litigation, and won. The dispute was about outstanding royalties under a patent licence agreement. The court ordered the company to pay Oxford outstanding royalties of £700,000, together with Oxford’s legal costs of nearly £1,000,000.

Although it started as a simple debt claim, the way the defendant brought its case raised many other legal and cultural issues. The court made important decisions on themes that had not been litigated in the English courts before, including:

  • that an intern was employed to invent, so that his inventions belonged to the university
  • that a PhD student was a consumer, and the university had acted fairly to that consumer (as required by consumer protection law) in relation to its IP, revenue sharing and equity policies
  • that a university could take a non-commercial view of spinout opportunities, based on its charitable objectives
  • that there was no evidence that Oxford’s policy on equity stakes hindered the formation of spinout companies, contrary to a common investor complaint

The defendants obtained permission to appeal the decision, but the parties settled their dispute before it reached the Court of Appeal. Thus, the decision of the High Court stands.

The conference will explore the implications of this important court decision for how universities operate, and how they interact with academics, students and interns. We will learn from the different perspectives of senior academics, university managers, lawyers working in the sector, regulators, investors and spinout company executives.

Learn more about the conference programme here.

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