Student-created intellectual property

Understand the ownership of intellectual property rights created by students at the University of Melbourne

Student contribution to the creation of intellectual property

Many students work on intellectual property (IP) creation at the University under a wide variety of circumstances.  The University promotes student entrepreneurship, and a student may be the sole contributor or creator of IP.  In certain circumstances, the student’s supervisor is also often found to be a creator.  The ownership of IP created or co-created by students enrolled at the University of Melbourne depends on a number of factors, explained in the following sections.

Student-owned IP

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' as defined in the following section.

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 Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence and Cooperative Research Centres, 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 agreement and documentation will also be helpful if and when the student leaves 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.

Students as staff members

If a student is also employed part-time by the University as a staff member, the University owns any IP they create during their employment. Students are advised to separate, where possible, the work that they do as a student from the work they do as an employee. The University also asserts ownership of IP created by casual employees of the University.

Any revenue obtained by the University from commercialisation of intellectual property is shared with the creators.

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