Intellectual property considerations in the development and use of HRQL measures for clinical trial research
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As a result of the expanded use of health-related quality of life (HRQL) measures in clinical trial research, a variety of legal and ethical issues have surfaced. These issues can be put in the form of the following questions: (1) Under what circumstances should access to HRQL measures be restricted? (2) Under what circumstances is it appropriate for the developers of HRQL measures to assert their intellectual property rights to the instruments? (3) Under what circumstances is personal profit from the sale and use of HRQL measures legally and socially appropriate? Access to HRQL research is to be encouraged since this is necessary for this field to progress. However, the need for protection against misuse of ongoing work is real and may justify the assertion of intellectual property rights. HRQL measures developed entirely with public monies should remain in the public domain or be managed for the public good. Instruments developed with private funds or with a mix of public and private funds should be treated in a manner that reflects a fair balance between the rights of the private developer and those of the scientific community and the public. HRQL questionnaires are regularly being refined; such work is costly. Investigators continuing research directly related to instrument refinement might reasonably ask for compensation from those who wish to use their work.
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