Student ownership of intellectual property
Understand the intellectual property ownership rights created by students at the University of Melbourne
A student at the University of Melbourne automatically owns any IP they create relating to their studies unless IP ownership is governed in some way by a third party agreement or 'specified agreement'. For instance, a student may publish any discrete, stand alone material that they have independently developed and is not subject to an agreement with an external organisation. Students are advised to seek independent legal advice in relation to any issues related to the management and exploitation of their own IP.
Specified agreements and collaborative projects
The University owns all IP (other than 'scholarly works') that students create while working on projects that are the subject of 'specified agreements' irrespective of whether the student was receiving a stipend funded by the outside party. A 'specified agreement' is an agreement between the University and an external party which relates to the ownership or use of IP emanating from an activity (including research) identified in the agreement. Examples include research contracts, studentship agreements, and funding agreements.
If the University receives royalties from the successful commercialisation of IP to which the student has contributed, the student will receive a share in 40 per cent of those royalties with other co-creators, or solely if they are the sole creator.
Applicants for research higher degree candidature are required, as part of the application process, to read and confirm that they understand the Intellectual Property Rights and Responsibilities: Information for Prospective Research Students document.
Students working on team-based projects, on collaborative projects with their supervisors or on ongoing programs in large research centres (such as CRCs), need to be aware of the IP rights and responsibilities of all those involved. In many cases, considerable intellectual input from the supervisor has already been placed in developing a grant application before a research project commences. In such cases, the rights associated with joint contribution need to be respected, and staff and students should ensure that IP matters are discussed, defined, agreed and documented prior to project commencement. This will also help should the student leave the University.
In general students are advised not to enter into or sign any legal agreement with an external organisation that relates to their research activities at the University. Students who are asked to sign any form or agreement should consult their supervisor or head of department.
Students as staff members
If a student is also employed part-time by the University as a staff member, rights to IP they create will vest in the University. Students are advised to separate, where feasible, the work that they undertake as a student from that undertaken as an employee. The University also asserts ownership of IP created by casual employees of the University.
Duty of IP disclosure
An IP disclosure is required when something novel and useful has been conceived and developed. Such IP may need protection, particularly when the invention, technology, software or multimedia product has commercial value. This requirement does not apply to literary works, musical creations, or works of art.
All student creators of IP have a specific duty to disclose inventions with potential commercial value or where required by a 'specified agreement' (the University of Melbourne Statute 13(6)). More information on submitting an IP disclosure is outlined in the Intellectual Property disclosure page.
If the University asserts ownership of student IP, a student's contribution to the development of IP will be recognised. If that IP is successfully commercialised and there is a financial return to the University, student creators of IP, like staff creators of IP, will be entitled to a share of net revenues received by the University.