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Collaboration and intellectual property

The Greenfield Project, investigating the use of robotic milking on New Zealand farms, involves several companies working together. How does this impact on intellectual property ownership?

Knowledge and expertise that can be sold is often called intellectual property. When a project is the result of collaboration between several organisations, this can be complicated. The Greenfield Project, which is investigating the use of robotic milking on New Zealand farms, is an example of such a collaboration.

What is the new knowledge in the Greenfield Project?

In the case of the Greenfield Project, new knowledge that could be sold includes knowledge of farm layout and herd management systems to allow New Zealand’s pastoral based farms to effectively use robotic milking technology.

When new knowledge is generated by a project, does the information belong to the scientists doing the research or the company that they work for? What about the organisations that funded the research?

Ownership is defined in contracts

These questions are usually sorted out in contracts between companies and the funding organisations, as well as in the job contracts that scientists sign. In this instance, the question becomes more complicated because there are two major contributing companies in this project (DairyNZ and Sensortec), each with different sources of funding and motivation.

To solve this problem, DairyNZ and Sensortec have jointly formed two new companies that they both own. Greenfield AMS Ltd owns all intellectual property from the Greenfield Project with the primary goal of licensing the technologies to add value to the New Zealand dairy industry. Robotic Milking Systems NZ Ltd (RMS Ltd) has responsibility for publicising all key information from the project to the farming community. In other words, Greenfield AMS Ltd owns all of the ideas and knowledge that has come out of the Greenfield Project, and RMS Ltd markets the ideas to farmers.

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