Untangling the Codes

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In technology transfer, as in other fields, there are quite a few acronyms that are thrown around and may seem confusing at first. In this glossary, we break down the different types of agreements that’ll help you untangle those codes.


MTA stands for Material Transfer Agreement. Because research and technology development are often collaborative efforts, colleagues may share research tools. MTAs are formal contracts that define the proper use and limits of these shared tools, which could include reagents, cells, antibodies, computer software, etc. It’s important to execute an MTA before any research material is sent or received. The execution of an MTA ensures clear intellectual property ownership and supports necessary patent documentation.


IIA stands for Inter-institutional Agreement. IIAs come into play when multiple individuals at different institutions jointly invent a new technology. In the case of joint ownership, OTT will negotiate an IIA to define the rights and responsibilities of the institutions. These agreements encompass intellectual property protection, commercialization, cost and revenue sharing, as well other issues related to protecting and licensing the jointly-owned technology.


RA stands for Research Agreement. Research agreements detail the obligations, commitments, and expectations of the parties involved over the course of a research project. RAs usually dictate and clarify specific goals of the research projects, in addition to how the involved parties will interact with each other.


CA stands for Confidentiality Agreement. CDA stands for Confidential Disclosure Agreement, sometimes referred to as an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) or an RDA (Restricted Disclosure Agreement). Generally speaking these types of agreements outline what information is confidential, what and how information can be shared , and what information should be restricted from other parties. These agreements allow parties to discuss details of their business and inventions without the fear of making important information public.


MOU stands for Memorandum of Understanding. An MOU is an agreement between two or more parties that specifies mutually accepted expectations as the parties work together toward a common objective. MOUs are generally not legally binding; they’re often used in cases where parties either don’t imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties can’t create a legally enforceable agreement.


RS stands for Revenue (or Royalty) Sharing Agreement.  An RS is an agreement between the contributors to a technology, their department or school and the university, which outlines how revenue paid to the university from a license is shared among the groups.  It builds upon the basic revenue split outlined in university’s intellectual property policy (Emory’s can be found here).