The University Academic as a Fiduciary: Where to Following University of Western Australia v. Gray?
Journal of Law, Information and Science, Vol. 19, pp. 22-41, 2008
21 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2011
Date Written: 2008
The recent Full Federal Court decision in University of Western Australia v Gray ((2009) 179 FCR 346) is the most recent episode in an emerging saga concerning the ownership of an invention made by an academic member of staff whilst in the employment of a higher education institution. With only two Australian decisions exploring this topic (the other being Victoria University of Technology v Wilson (2004) 60 IPR 392) having divergent results, the purpose of this article is to examine these two cases in the historical context of an employee's fiduciary obligations. The answer as to when an employee owes fiduciary duties sends a very clear message about the nature of the employer/employee relationship, and fundamentally, the resolution of the cases sends a message to both career academics and university administrators as to how their affairs need to be structured so as to maximise the personal interests of each. Moreover, the authors consider that the decision in University of Western Australia v Gray has the potential to reconfigure the employment relationship in Australia, most particularly in relation to intellectual property ownership, but more generally too.
Keywords: fiduciary duties, employment law, invention
JEL Classification: O34, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation