Do you know who owns your Intellectual Property?

Posted by s.hettrick on 30 May 2013 - 10:25am

CakeCutting.jpgBy Simon Hettrick.

Intellectual Property (IP) is a thorny issue in academia, generally because people don't know who owns what. There's a lot of hearsay, rumour and - frankly - misunderstanding about IP ownership, so we've decided to run an experiment. And we're going to need some guinea pigs...

The provisions that govern IP ownership appear fairly straightforward. Your IP is your own unless you work in a role where you're expected to generate IP, in which case your employer owns it.

Things get more complicated, when people start to ask "Are PhD students employees?" and "Do I own the software if I wrote it on my work computer, but outside of working hours?". Add to this employment contracts that deal with the assignment of IP, even though these often go unsigned and some contain clauses that are not legal. And, of course, the fact that who owns what is often not discussed... right up until someone creates something valuable and tries to make money from it.

To get a better understanding of how academia deals with IP ownership, we want to run The Great Licenceathon. This will see people at different organisations working out who owns their IP. They'll then blog about their experiences and we'll pick through those blogs to see whether there's some common lessons we can learn.

If you want to know who owns your IP, and you have time to ask a few questions at your organisation, then please get in touch.