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Thread: Do I Need An NDA To Discuss Theory With Univ. Prof.?

  1. #1 Do I Need An NDA To Discuss Theory With Univ. Prof.? 
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    I have an appointment to discuss a food chemistry theory I've developed with a professor at a nearby University to see if it can be advanced in any way. My concern is how to approach the issue of a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the professor. I know that there is a code of ethics which is generally followed in academia, but this concept carries a potential upside which could be substantially lucrative, and I'd like to protect myself as much as possible. Any suggestions on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated!


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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Is there any reason you can't have him sign a simple NDA?


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    I can certainly whip one up easily enough, I just didn't know whether it would be offensive. Are NDAs as pervasive in academia as in the business world?
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfcalf
    I can certainly whip one up easily enough, I just didn't know whether it would be offensive. Are NDAs as pervasive in academia as in the business world?
    Why would he want to sign one ?

    In his position I would not sign one without good reason.
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  6. #5  
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    Yeah, that's exactly my fear. I would hate to show up in the office NDA in hand just to receive a sneer and taint the entire meeting. In my business NDAs are as universal as coffee cups and no one would even think twice about signing on the line. I haven't been on an University campus since I graduated so I guess that they aren't that common in academia?

    In that case how worried should I be about "a lift and run"?
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfcalf
    Yeah, that's exactly my fear. I would hate to show up in the office NDA in hand just to receive a sneer and taint the entire meeting. In my business NDAs are as universal as coffee cups and no one would even think twice about signing on the line. I haven't been on an University campus since I graduated so I guess that they aren't that common in academia?

    In that case how worried should I be about "a lift and run"?
    When I was in industry not just anyone could sign an NDA. At one point, in a nearly $1 billion business unit there were 3 of us who could sign them (this is kinda extreme). But in any case we did not sign just any NDA as a matter of course. There had to be at least the potential of something in it for us before we would consider signing.

    Academics do sign NDAs, but usually only as part of a private consulting agreement. Unless you are paying this guy I see no incentive for him to sign since all that he gets from it is to put you in a stronger position for some future lawsuit. If he is dumb enough to do that you probably ought to look for a smarter consultant.
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  8. #7  
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    I appreciate your clarifications. Thank you. I think that the best thing is to forget that I even thought of an NDA. How common is intellectual property theft in academia? Do I have to stay up at nights wondering if the Prof. is going to pass this off as his own work? As I said, it has a considerable upside potential.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfcalf
    How common is intellectual property theft in academia?
    Depends on the individual. Most people are honest, even in academia. I have seen ideas stolen though.

    If it were my company, I would not let an employee discuss proprietary information with an outsider without a solid NDA. You also ought to check on export-import restrictions if this guy is not a U.S. citizen or a known holder of a green card, depending on the nature of the technology. Lots of stuff is restricted.
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  10. #9  
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    I had an idea stolen in business right at a trade show. This guy took our whole presentation and just went off and did it himself very successfully while we stood on the sidelines like morons. I swore that would never happen again. This is in Canada at a Canadian University and the Prof is legit. OK, here we go... fingers crossed...
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