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    Discussion in 'Protecting your designs or inventions' started by rjlm201, May 6, 2011.

    1. rjlm201

      rjlm201 New Member

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      I am a 2nd year mechanical engineering student at university.

      I have designed several new products which as far as I know are unique inventions. I am concerned as to who actually would own the rights if I were to pursue any of these designs.

      I have spoken to a few lecturers and they have given me conflicting answers. One told me that the university would help me and the ideas are my own. The other said to not do anything until I graduate as the university will own all rights. I have copyrighted one of my designs which I made in the students workshop but is this secure enough?

      I would like to start making my ideas and testing them while I am still at university however I don't want to throw away any rights I have.

      Does anyone have any advice?
       
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    3. nornrich

      nornrich New Member

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      rjlm201,

      My first recommendation is to keep very good, precise and accurate records of the work that you are doing. It also doesn't hurt to have someone countersign and date your notes. This is especially helpful if you are going to pursue any patents on your designs.

      Most universities will have policy and procedures in place in regards to the ownership, licensing, royalties, etc that stem from inventions. They pertain to faculty, students, researchers, employees, etc. The institution will try to gather as many claims as possible to ownership.

      If you want to retain control of your ideas/inventions the best bet is to do the work outside the confines of the university/company/etc. Document that you are performing the work on your own time, with your own equipment, etc to keep it clean.

      There are some universities that will look at the intellectual property and then assign ownership to the individual to allow them to pursue it. This model has worked very well for Stanford, as it has created the seedbed for Silicon Valley and has seen healthy returns in alumni donations from some of the wealthiest people on the planet(Dave Hewlett, Bill Packard and others).


      Rich......
       
    4. AeroSigma

      AeroSigma Member

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      It depends. In most cases, undergrads own their work, and Grad student's work belongs to the university. This is because graduate students are usually doing research on a university-sponsored, professor-lead project. Often university considers_any_ IP the grad students generate as their property since the university is often paying for the grad student's education instead of the other way around for a undergrad.
      Whether the work was done on (or even came in contact with, is some cases) university equipment may have an impact.

      Will you be "making and testing" these ideas on university equipment? I assume you're an undergrad, and therefore you may be ok to develop your ideas with university owned tools. The best thing to do would be to talk with your university's legal department. You can probably even find some information on your school's website.
       
    5. AeroSigma

      AeroSigma Member

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      You should also be aware that copyrighting provides _very_ little protection of inventions. You'll want a patent instead. I believe a provisional patent application only costs about $100 and will setup up an early filing date and give you a year to prepare (and find funding for) a regular patent application.
       
    6. stewart128

      stewart128 Member

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      I am a Patent Attorney and just wanted to echo much of what Aerosigma has said - good advice. However, the situation is somehwat dependent on which country you are in (national lawas on the ownership of inventions varies significantly). In the UK, it is indeed unlikley that the University would ever own an undergraduate's inventions although they may be useful allies when it comes to paying for protection etc. Also, in the UK it does not need to cost anything to file a provisional patent application (if you do it yourself); however, you are in very dangerous territory trying to do this yourself. If you have the cash, muchbetter to use a Chartered Patent Attorney to professionally draft and file the application for you.
       
    7. IP Consultant

      IP Consultant New Member

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      I would echo what has been said by AeroSigma and stewart128 regarding the normal ownership of inventions made at university, and the variation in laws from country to country. The important point is if you have you entered into a contract with the university regarding the ownership of inventions made at university. From what you have (not) said, I assume you have not. I must say it is unlikely you will obtain funding from the university without some concession regarding ownership. Speak as soon as possible to a European Patent Attorney or CPA to ask how your ideas could be protected and how much it will cost. You can sometimes get this information for free in a first meeting. Ask about utility models and registered designs aswell as patents. Be very careful if you decide to draft claims yourself, in particular ensure you understand the repercussions of so called “added matterâ€. And, remember to keep your idea confidential at least until you have filed a patent application.
      Good luck!
      Matthew Allen
      European Patent Attorney
       
    8. jamjumpin

      jamjumpin Member

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      When I was at uni there was a scheme (of which I can't remember the exact details) that you could enter into with the university to get your products out there.

      One thing that you need to look into is who owns the software (assuming you used CAD). If you used the university license then they may have some ownership of your design. If you used a student copy then legally you are not allowed to make your product from those drawings.

      The benefit of going into partnership with your uni is that if someone does enfringe on your patent, they have the money to fight the case in court, whereas as a student I'm guessing you don't.
       
    9. thebigconsultant

      thebigconsultant Active Member

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      I had the same problem at University. I had an invention that was shown to Judith Hann, who was the presenter of Tomorrow's World!!

      I went with to have a free hour of advice at a Patent Solicitor, and had the university sign all rights over to me.

      This was in 2001. I can recommend a good Patent Solicitor, who I always use, if you PM me.

      There is also IP related information on my blog, for inventors and the like.

      Kind regards,
      John Biddleston
       
    10. MSBT

      MSBT Member

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      rjlm201,

      "...I have designed several new products which as far as I know are unique inventions. I am concerned as to who actually would own the rights if I were to pursue any of these designs.

      I have spoken to a few lecturers and they have given me conflicting answers. One told me that the university would help me and the ideas are my own. The other said to not do anything until I graduate as the university will own all rights. I have copyrighted one of my designs which I made in the students workshop but is this secure enough?..."


      You seem to be a little confused regarding the intellectual-property terminology you have chosen to use in your query...copyright, design-right & invention-right (aka patent) cover different aspects of IP law.

      Why do you think you have invented something "unique"?
      Because there's nothing similar currently on the market or because you have performed a patent-search and not found a similar device?

      Other commenters have answered other parts of your question in good detail, and also in my opinion (assuming you to be an undergraduate rather than a post-grad-university-employee) then the university should have no claim to your IP-rights.
       
      Last edited: May 24, 2012

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