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Guidance on Foreign Collaborations

A. Navigating Export Controls

U.S. export laws regulate the shipment, transfer, or disclosure of physical exports, technical data, and software to foreign countries or to foreign persons, including our students and faculty, and entities within the U.S. These laws aim to protect U.S. national security, economic interests, and foreign policy. Moreover, these laws restrict exports to certain entities and individuals, including some academic institutions in certain countries, as well as the sharing of technologies with individuals affiliated with those entities while in the United States.

Faculty and staff who engage in the following activities should be aware of export controls and how they apply in each case.

  • Shipments to foreign locations
  • Procurement of goods or services from foreign vendors
  • Payments to foreign nationals and foreign companies
  • Faculty and staff travel to foreign countries
  • Contracting with a foreign source
  • Hosting foreign visitors and delegations
  • Foreign national access to controlled chemicals, microorganisms and toxins
  • Research involving specific military applications
  • Research collaboration with a third party appearing on a U.S. restricted party list

Contact ExportControl@umassmed.edu to request review of individual situations.

1.  Screening of UMMS Collaborators

UMMS screens international collaborators (institutions and individuals) against U.S. Government watch lists using an electronic search tool. If a potential collaborator is on either the Unverified List or Restricted Entity List, the collaboration may be subject to certain limitations. Contact ExportControl@umassmed.edu with questions.

2.  Sending Items to Collaborators (Exports)

All items (including equipment, materials, supplies, software shipped through a carrier or hand-carried onto a plane or boat and destined for a foreign country are considered exports under U.S. export control laws. Some exports like biological and chemical samples, lasers, and munitions will occasionally require an export license prior to shipping or hand-carrying. Even if an export license is not required, these types of items must be declared to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to export. If you intend to hand-carry or ship an item with you to a foreign location, contact ISS to determine federal export licensing requirements.

3.  Receiving Items from Collaborators (Imports)

Items shipped from a foreign location into the U.S. are considered imports. When importing items into the U.S., you should work with the sender to ensure that all shipping documents are filled out properly to avoid confiscation and associated fees from CBP. Because of the complexities, UMMS typically uses a customs agent. Contact ISS for more information about the process and associated costs.

Keep in mind that the following categories of items have restrictions when being imported into the U.S.:

  • Biological specimens
  • Certain animals and products made from them
  • Items from embargoed countries

As applicable, International Support Services, in conjunction with Export Control in the President’s Office, can assist faculty in securing a government permit or license for an import.

B. Collaborating with International Subawardees

OSP has established formal procedures for administering both domestic and foreign subawards. All subrecipients are subject to a risk assessment and restricted screening process. Subawards with foreign entities are subject to additional monitoring given the inherent risks associated with projects carried out abroad. Contact Matty Spragens, Director of OSP (matty.spragens@umassmed.edu) with any questions related to foreign subawards.

C. Receiving Foreign Gifts and Donations

Through its Office of Advancement UMMS cultivates and manages relationships with contributors, alumni, and other constituents to generate support for teaching, research and public service. All gifts and donations meant to benefit UMMS are subject to strict accounting rules and other federal reporting requirements such as section 117 of the Higher Education Act. This Act requires academic institutions to report foreign gifts and contracts that meet certain dollar thresholds to the U.S. Department of Education on a bi-annual basis.

Gifts and donations can be monetary or in-kind and must be reviewed, approved, and processed through the Office of Advancement so that UMMS can properly account for the funds and manage the important relationships that are behind each gift or donation. Please contact John Hayes, Vice Chancellor for Advancement directly with questions about international gifts or donations.

D. Protecting IP in International Collaborations

Recently, the U.S. government has exhibited increased concern around U.S. generated Intellectual Property (IP) that is inappropriately passed to foreign entities. Such transfers may occur during the course of a research project proposal, project or thesis review, or publication review. At times, foreign entity review may be predicated on a researcher’s willingness to share non-public information.

1.  Overview on IP Rights Outside of the US

Intellectual property refers to innovations that the law protects from unauthorized use by others. Main forms of IP include patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. In an international research setting, IP filings are made to protect innovations like: drugs, devices, software codes, curriculum, reagents, and data. The first step to protecting IP is to disclose it to UMMS. Faculty and staff should disclose Intellectual Property that may need to be protected through BRIDGE/Office of Technology Management. https://www.umassmed.edu/bridge/contact-us/

2.  Licensing and the Fundamental Research Exclusion

Most of the time IP developed at UMMS is the result of “Fundamental Research ” and, as such, is not subject to export regulations and can be shared without issue. However, some IP is the product of restricted research and is subject to control. If the research does not qualify for the Fundamental Research Exemption (FRE), the following transactions require review:

  • Allowing foreign persons (including other UMMS personnel) to review an internal IP disclosure, where the subject technology is the product of restricted research
  • Sharing provisional and/or unpublished patent applications with a foreign person (whether in US or overseas), where the subject technology is the product of restricted research
  • Discussing restricted IP with a foreign collaborator or potential licensee
  • Sharing an Invention Disclosure or other IP-marketing material with a foreign person, where the subject technology is the product of restricted research
  • Licensing restricted IP to a foreign person or entity
  • Licensing IP (restricted or unrestricted) to a Restricted Party

Researchers who license IP, including IP that is the product of Fundamental Research, must be cautious about further technology development when that technology is developed with or for a corporate licensee. Often such development is subject to restrictions on publication and is therefore Restricted Research (even if the original technology qualified as Fundamental Research). Researchers can work with OTM and the Export Control Office to ensure that future development of technology does not unknowingly implicate export controls.

3.  SOPs to Properly Share IP

To avoid inadvertent violation of export control regulations, please work through the following steps BEFORE sharing UMMS IP with a foreign person or entity. Should you have any questions – please contact internationalsupportservices@umassmed.edu.

  • Ensure that the proposed recipient and/or licensee is not a Restricted Party. Contact exportcontrol@umassmed.edu to request a screen.
  • Work with OTM to ensure that IP is properly identified and documented
  • Determine whether the IP is the result of Fundamental Research. If NOT fundamental research, we must then determine the jurisdiction and classification of the technology.
    • Contact ISS in case of questions
  • Work with ISS to verify that restricted IP may be licensed and/or transferred to the recipient without an export license.