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Ethical dilemmas: Commentary on Case 8: About intellectual property

In this series we confront readers with ethical dilemmas and ask what you would have done

These dilemmas are based on a series written in the mid-1990s by Paul Lynch for Management Consultancy magazine, in which he posed ethical dilemmas that might confront management consultants and asked readers what they might have done in those circumstances. Like Paul, we ask you what you think you would have done given the same circumstances, and in this issue of our Newsletter we present a commentary on a recent case study based on these responses and other reflections.

Commentary on Case 8 – About intellectual property

Antonia had been asked by a client to provide a copy of a manual she had authored three or four years previously for them as part of a project. This request raised several questions in her mind – for example, about intellectual property rights, and the fact that the advance of technology meant that the manual was clearly now out of date.

What happened in practice was that, despite her initial reservations and misgivings, she came to the conclusion that she had no choice but to provide a copy. However, she also decided to submit a proposal to accompany the copy, where she strongly recommended that her services be retained as an advisor during the work of updating the manual. This would enable her to suggest how the manual could be improved, taking into account the latest developments in information technology, and any other technical matters. This solution would help her to avoid being associated with an out-of-date manual.

2021 update: as a matter of principle a client will have the exclusive rights to any material that has been developed at their expense, and so Antonia should have no reservations about supplying a copy of the manual.

More generally, the terms of business for consulting projects that providers of consulting services include with proposals should always have a clause that defies the ownership of intellectual property, thereby avoiding the dilemma that Antonia had to confront.

Monday 14th June 2021
The Thinker statue