Practical Guide to Students and IP

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Students are no longer just the passive recipients of a State-sponsored education. They are financial investors in their education (often underwritten by a bank loan), consumers of their university’s educational services (e.g. in the context of consumer protection laws), and valuable assets of their university. The basic educational relationship between university and student is still there, but these new features have been added, like flying buttresses on a medieval cathedral, ugly, but necessary to ensure the cathedral’s long term survival.

The causes of these developments are various, and include changes in the funding arrangements for courses and living expenses; an increasingly competitive atmosphere among prospective students and among universities; and a more demanding, consumer-conscious society. Meanwhile, universities are increasingly expected to work closely with industry on applied research and development. Although this primarily affects academic staff, it has a trickle-down effect on students, particularly where students are funded by industry or work on university research projects. Many of these developments can be seen together in the single issue of intellectual property (IP) generated by students.

The main focus of this Practical Guide will be on how universities can protect their interests in student-generated IP. But in reaching conclusions on this point, it is necessary to consider various aspects of the relationship between the student and the university. The purpose of this Practical Guide is three fold:

1 to provide an introduction to the legal and practical issues surrounding the ownership, and management, of IP created by students;

2 to provide some suggested templates together with guidelines concerning their completion;

3 to consider and discuss some issues which are problematic or of particular concern to universities. 

This document was last updated 2006 and is therefore freely available to non-members

Publication Date: 
Friday, July 21, 2006