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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

3.11: Student and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

1. Intellectual Property is the product of thought, creativity, and intellectual effort. In the course of their studies at the University of Durham, Students may generate Intellectual Property (e.g. "results") which is of some commercial value. A variety of legal rights protect applications of ideas and information that may be of commercial value. Those most relevant to the University's activities include patents, registered designs, copyright and 'know how'. The law is clear that intellectual property created by staff 'in the course of their employment' belongs to their employer. Students are not normally employees of the University[1] . Any assignment of Student Intellectual Property must be done by a specific contract. Universities must seek to strike a balance between a duty of care to the Student and a duty to exploit for the University's good, this balance being best achieved by selective assignment arising out of a specific contract in cases where the University's input in the creation of the Intellectual Property is very clear.

2. Where a Student generates Intellectual Property the Student has a duty to promptly inform the University of the Intellectual Property. The University will explain to the Student the issue of ownershipin respect of all types of Intellectual Property through the development of appropriate documentation. When considering any Intellectual Property generated by one of its Students, the University will seek to strike a balance between fulfilling its duty of care to the Student and exploiting intellectual property for the good of the University. In each case the University will be mindful of protecting any third party rights that may be relevant in the generation of the Intellectual Property.

3. In general, and depending upon the status of the Student, Students own the Intellectual Property they generate in the course of their studies at the University. As the generator of the Intellectual Property the Student will always be deemed the inventor of the Intellectual Property in the case of any patent filing; and an owner in the case of copyright. There are however exceptions to this rule.

4. Where a Student is on a placement as part of their University studies, the organisation or company that offers the placement will usually require as a condition of acceptance of that placement that the Student assign to them, by way of a contract, their Intellectual Property rights in the work they create or develop while on the placement. Depending upon the status of the Student, the University will accept this practice but will seek to negotiate the 'best terms' it can for the Student and where applicable the University will seek to negotiate these terms in advance of acceptance by the Student of the placement. The issue of Intellectual Property rights in a placement will always be viewed by the University on a case by case basis. Therefore, where a Department is in discussions with an organisation or company for a student placement it is the Department's responsibility to contact the University's Legal Support early on in the discussions to obtain appropriate legal advice on the student placement.

5. Another exception is where a Student is participating in a commercially-sponsored research project. Some degree programmes of the University offer the Students the opportunity to work on a project with an external industrial or commercial partner. In these cases, the external industrial or commercial partner will have contracted with the University. When negotiating the terms of that contract, the University may agree to the external industrial or commercial partner owning all the Intellectual Property resulting from that project. Where the University has agreed to this ownership, the University will always ensure that nothing in the contract will affect the right of the Student and therefore the University to disseminate the results of the project for the public benefit. The University in this case, will request that the Student assign to the University the Student generated Intellectual Property in order that the University can assign the Intellectual Property to the external industrial or commercial partner sponsoring the project. Where a Student is required by the University to assign their rights in the Intellectual Property either to the University or to the external industrial or commercial partner, University will inform the Student of this requirement in advance of the project work being undertaken by the Student. It is within the Student's rights not to agree to the assignment of their Intellectual Property, and the University will give the Students the choice of another topic within the degree programme.

6. One final exception is where a Student enrolled at the University is sponsored or employed by an organisation other than the University, than those Students may already be bound by Intellectual Property arrangements entered into with their respective sponsors or employers. In this case, it is the obligation of the Student's sponsor to inform the University of its position with regards to ownership of any Intellectual Property resulting from the Student, and to enter into a written agreement with the University to confirm the Intellectual Property ownership resulting from that Student.

7. For Postgraduate/Research Students, any Intellectual Property generated is seen as the result of interaction between the Postgraduate/Research Student and the University's academic staff, and, therefore, jointly developed. In cases where the work is commercially viable, the University will seek to obtain Intellectual Property protection (such as a patent or registered design). In such circumstances, the University staff Intellectual Property contribution will be owned by the University under the University staff's contract of employment, and the Student will be deemed as University staff in respect of the Intellectual Property ownership and will be entitled to the same benefits of remuneration as University staff.

 



 

 Postgraduate students of the University are deemed employees of the University for the purpose of intellectual property rights and ownership.