Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

'Huge Amounts of Confusion' over IP Rights

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

'Huge Amounts of Confusion' over IP Rights

Article excerpt

'Outdated' university policies make claims on student work, THE survey finds. Holly Else reports

Almost 20 per cent of universities are claiming the rights to intellectual property developed by students using legally questionable and "outdated" policies, a survey of almost 70 institutions by Times Higher Education suggests.

As a result, university IP policies for students and staff may be hindering entrepreneurship and engagement with industry, experts have warned.

More than 60 universities sent THE their intellectual property policies or a summary of the main points, and 58 of them contain details about provisions for students. In 16 of these, the rights to any IP developed by a student are automatically granted to the institution in the first instance. Another institution's policy asks for the rights.

At the Royal College of Art, for example, IP rights are held by the university until graduation to protect student works from copyright infringement by third parties. This is a risk when students exhibit their work publicly, a spokeswoman said.

Even the majority of the 48 policies that grant students ownership of their IP contain clauses that allow the university to take ownership under certain circumstances, such as when the IP has been developed using input from staff or substantial university resources, when students have been part of a research project, or when students have signed a specific agreement that states otherwise.

In the case of sponsored students or externally funded work, many policies stipulate that the IP would rest with the third party.

Several policies declared ownership of anything a student developed that was "patentable" or "exploitable".

Two stated that students own their IP but license their rights to the university on enrolment.

One of these was London Metropolitan University, which said that the clause ensured that the university did not breach copyright when preparing student work for internal processes, such as copying it for second markers. "The licence would not allow the university to publish student work or use it commercially without further agreement from the student," a spokesman said.

Mandy Haberman, an entrepreneur and a director of the IP Awareness Network, said that there was "huge amounts of confusion" in higher education about IP.

Universities, she continued, are using a "sledgehammer to crack a nut" in policies designed to make it easier to exploit IP without having to trace students after graduation. …

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