IP ownership can be tricky and whilst there are a number of situations in which academics will either create or contribute to the creation of IP, they may not necessarily own the IP in question.
To determine the owner of the IP, it is essential to be certain who was the actual creator of the IP and differentiate between the originator and the contributor. The person(s) who have made the creative leap are the originator(s). Different specific terms are used for the originator(s) of different types of IP. For example, in the case of patents they are “inventor(s)” and in the case of literary copyright works they are “author(s)”. Other individuals may have worked with the originator(s) to develop the original idea or work, but if they have not created anything new in IP terms, then they are not originator(s) but simply contributor(s).
- Personnel within the University:
Staff: In most cases, if an employee of the University creates IP during the course of their employment, their employer (the University) will own the IP. This is unless anything has been agreed to the contrary. Staff usually includes professors, readers, lecturers, technicians, research staff, support staff and administrators.
Students: The default position is that students own the intellectual property they create while studying at the University, unless, the IP is jointly created with someone else, or the student is a funded student.
Temporary staff: Whether temporary staff own the IP that they create while working at the University, will depend on the terms of the contract. If they are generating IP as part of their temporary staffing role, it will be important to check the terms of the contract to ensure that the IP is owned by the University.
Honorary appointees and emeritus professors: These personnel are not employees of the University and in most cases, there is no agreement in place to cover the work they do at the University. In order to ensure that the University has access to or rights in the IP they create, an agreement will need to be put in place.
- Personnel from outside the University:
Visiting lecturers and other visitors: Visitors to the University will normally own the IP they create while accessing University resources unless there is an agreement to the contrary in place.
Consultants and service providers: If any external consultants or service providers have contributed to the development of the IP. Consultants are not classed as employees. IP created by a consultant or service provider may be owned by that person or company even if they have been paid by the University to do the work, unless stated otherwise in the consultancy or service agreement. For example, if a service provider created a website for the University, they will own the IP rights in the website unless we have a written agreement in place that states otherwise. To put a contract in place with a service provider, you can contact the Procurement team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collaborators: When working with or for an industrial sponsor or a different university/ institution, the terms of the funding arrangements e.g. of the grant, the contract or the collaboration agreement, will usually dictate who will own the IP created.