Question about intellectual property



I am a member of staff doing a PhD whilst working at a University. Who has the IP for any outputs from my research? Is it the University of myself? If there is any possibility of commercial activity from the research, who owns the IP?

Thank you


It depends entirely on your contract. Which, if it's a template, will usually have a clause or annex saying the University wholly owns it, which you signed ages ago before this became a consideration. This is particularly the case with student contracts, which is somewhat understandable given the University (likely indirectly) funded the research and stipended the student, and is in-part to guard against students that might enter a lab and seek to steal IP rather than generate it, because it avoids a who-invented-what argument.

Universities, though, are typically happy to (re-)negotiate a split with staff, or have a stated policy of revenue split (which usually increases in the university's favor the larger the venture, to around 50/50) if you seek to spin-out a company, because they're not oblivious to the fact that unless you're incentivised to push the commercial aspect forwards, they'll own 100% of (commercially) nothing.

You'll probably have an IP office at your Uni that can help, though I'd read your contract carefully in advance and devise a plan for exactly what you intend to do in financial/corporate terms, particularly if some form of up-front investment will be required. They will probably be somewhat used to rolling their eyes at another PhD that thinks they have a great idea but are incredibly naive with respect to what it will take to get it to market, particularly in terms of indirect cost. If you have a brilliant idea and a balance of $0, you've unfortunately only done the easy bit so far.


Typically, if you created the IP while you are employed at a university, your IP is owned by the university.

If there is royalty from commercial activity, some cost of commercialisation will be taken out and the remaining will be distributed in a apportioned rate between all the IP inventors and contributors. Generally, the IP inventors will be those named in a patent to protect the IP.

There will be a policy on the uni website will details all matters on IP. Have a read.


Regarding student IP, that may be different in different uni or even countries. The policy of the uni that I was part of stated that the IP generated during a PhD project generally is owned by the student unless the defining concept/idea and enabling data came was jointed created by the student and others.