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University seeks exemption from open records law

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is seeking exemption language in the state's open records law that would keep certain types of research information from the public prior to publication or patent.

The effort was precipitated by a shift in U.S. patent law, which changed to a first-to-file system in 2011, with full implementation by March 2013. University officials are concerned that a competitor could use the open records law to gain premature access to intellectual property, enabling it to "race to the patent office to seek patent protection for the ideas of UW researchers." Critics of the proposal contend that the state "already allows the UW to deny requests if it can cite a legitimate public policy reason for doing so," and that an "exemption for a whole category of records, whether or not any harmful consequences of disclosure can be identified... is likely to be over-applied, and abused."

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