Today's Question: iPhone competition raises questions over ownership

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | 1:04 p.m. CDT

MU students who spent months developing an Apple iPhone application are trying to figure out their rights to their award-winning invention.

Winners of the Reynolds Journalism Institute iPhone Student Competition, journalism senior Anthony Brown and graduate students Zhenhua Ma, Dan Wang and Peng Zhuang, developed the application NearBuy, a real estate program that maps local listed homes and provides information about the surrounding area. Now that they plan to sell the application, there's some questions on who gets the profits.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Mike McKean, director of RJI’s Futures Lab, said contestants were told that the university keeps 66 percent of profits under its patent policy. McKean said the Journalism School was told the applications could fall under copyright protection, which gave RJI administrators the chance to negotiate with contestants. The university would maintain 25 percent ownership of the applications, the Tribune stated.

The school provided the competing teams with iPhones, which were returned to RJI at the end of the competition, except for the People's Choice winners, who were allowed to keep them as their prize.

Brown said in the Tribune article that he hasn't signed anything and is looking into what other universities have done under similar circumstances.

Should the NearBuy team members have 100 percent of the rights to the application they developed using university property?


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