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FGSR Intellectual Property Policy

Introduction

The office of the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) serves as a resource to graduate students on all matters related to graduate studies, including Intellectual Property. Students are encouraged to contact the Dean’s office for advice, information, or assistance in addressing concerns.

The information in this document has been reviewed by the Intellectual Property Committee and is consistent with the University's Intellectual Property Policy. The policy itself states, “Intellectual Property issues involving students will be addressed in a manner consistent with this policy.” Graduate students need to be aware that individual circumstances may affect the interpretation of the policy. Hence, although this document provides a general overview, it should not be viewed as legally binding and applicable to all cases and circumstances.

Are graduate students covered by the policy?

Yes, both as students (e.g., for course work, thesis work, and independent study) and as employees of the University (e.g., as teaching assistants), or University researchers (e.g., as hired research assistants). The policy does not apply to work undertaken prior to becoming a graduate student here, or to work done off campus, as long as that work does not involve the use of the University’s Specialized Resources. It is the responsibility of the Dean of each Faculty to define what constitutes use of Specialized Resources in that Faculty and to define procedures to oversee the use of these Specialized Resources.

Are graduate students authorized to sign contracts/agreements etc. on behalf of the University?

The answer is No. A graduate student may not act as a signatory authorized to represent the University or any of its members on matters pertaining to intellectual property. However, it may be that a student will sign off in conjunction with a formal agreement approved by authorized University personnel. Graduate students are reminded that they are to arrange to have any such agreements evaluated by the office of the FGSR to ensure that their rights are being protected. In the absence of such an evaluation, the FGSR will view the agreement as non-binding on the graduate student.

Who owns the intellectual property created by graduate students?

At the University of Regina, the Intellectual Property Policy defines ownership and other intellectual property issues. In this policy, creators are persons who have made an original intellectual contribution to the work. Accordingly, to be regarded as the original owner or co-owner of intellectual property (IP), there must have been a substantive and/or creative contribution by the student in producing the IP (the precise legal requirements vary relative to copyright works, patentable inventions, etc.). Moreover, the student must not have created the property as a part of his or her responsibilities as an employee of another (in which case the employer is the legal owner), or have sold, waived or assigned his/her rights to the property. Although faculty and staff are employees of the University, the University, in general, does not employ these individuals to produce IP; thus, IP created by faculty members is created independent of their role as an employee. Hence, a key element in determining ownership of IP is whether the originator was an employee whose responsibilities included creation of IP for the employer.

Note as well that IP can be jointly created and jointly owned. Many written works are co-authored, and many inventions involve the participation of more than one researcher. Likewise, several researchers may contribute to the same body of scientific data. Provided the participants were not employed specifically to write, or do the work, then these co-creators of the IP share ownership and are entitled to copyright, patent, or similar protection and have the right to control the work.

It is difficult to provide a definition of an original contribution that serves to unequivocally define a contributor as a bona fide author or inventor. Each case needs to be individually examined. When there is an unresolved dispute, advice and assistance from the Dean’s office of the FGSR should be sought in the first instance. If the matter cannot be brought to resolution at this level, it may be appropriate to forward the issue to the IP Committee (IPC), which in turn will make a recommendation to the Vice-President (Research & International). Please note that the University encourages the creators to discuss and make the decisions about jointly created works and to only involve the IPC should an impasse occur. Graduate students have the opportunity to engage the Dean’s office, which will hopefully facilitate a resolution and therefore preclude a need to involve the IPC. It should be noted that the University’s default position is that the creators have equal ownership unless the creators have made another agreement. The University regards the appearance of an individual's name on a publication as an indication that the person has made an original intellectual contribution to the work, and is, therefore, an author with all the attendant rights, responsibilities, and privileges.

What are the implications of co-ownership?

Co-ownership typically applies when research is pursued in collaboration with others and is usually manifested as multi-authored papers, patents, and conference presentations where several individuals are given credit for substantive contributions to the work. In universities, co-ownership usually entitles any of the owners to use the work, including for further research or publication, but requires that appropriate credit to the other contributors be made. This facilitates the continuity of research scholarship within the University, and promotes further development by building on what has already been achieved. Graduate students and their supervisors need to be sensitive to the implications of collaborative research scholarship, not only in observing the etiquette of the discipline, but in fully recognizing the contributions each has made, and the rights arising from each individual’s contribution.

Is ownership different if the work is created as an employee rather than as a graduate student?

Yes, it is different. A graduate student owns, or co-owns, the IP created as “work” for academic credit, or a degree. Students may seek to publish the work, patent it, or copyright the material, either individually, or with their co-creators where this is appropriate. The University has no rights of ownership over the academic work of graduate students. In submitting the work for academic credit, the student is consenting to allow authorized University staff to review and evaluate it; but retains ownership. However, when the creator is an employee, the employer owns the work unless the employer has agreed to an alternative arrangement. Thus, for students employed by the University, ownership of IP rests with the University when the IP is created as a part of the job assignment.

Is a student who holds a University or external scholarship an employee?

No, scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, etc. do not constitute employment and the student’s IP rights should be unencumbered. However, it is important to check the regulations for the given award and if unspecified, a student should reasonably expect that his/her rights are unaffected. In some instances, a student may be involved in a project involving both a scholarship and other funding. In such cases, the relationship of the other funding needs to be clarified to determine whether it is a stipend, or is a salary paid for particular work that includes the creation of IP. If uncertainty exists, the situation should be clarified at the outset.

What is the situation for Graduate Teaching Assistants?

Graduate Teaching Assistants are employees and the employer-employee relationship applies. Therefore, if the student is assigned to produce written, recorded, or computerized course materials as part of the TA duties, those materials are not the IP of the student. In contrast, teaching materials produced by the student for lectures or tutorial presentations are the student’s private property unless he/she was specifically requested by the University to make those materials as a condition of employment. It is important to note that the student’s course work, thesis work, and independent studies are unaffected by this employment.

What is the situation for students receiving financial support from professors' research grants or contracts?

The answer will depend on whether the student is receiving a stipend, or has been hired (employed). In the case of a stipend, such as remuneration from a research grant, the support is equivalent to a research award, not unlike a scholarship; i.e., the support is to enable the student to pursue academic studies in the absence of any expectation that the student will perform any particular assigned duties as an employee. If hired, the student is an employee and technically any IP created is the property of the professor, or perhaps the project sponsor, depending on the terms of the contract. Thus, students paid to perform specific assigned tasks are employed and, in the absence of an agreement stating otherwise, any IP created belongs to the employer.

It is possible for both a student/supervisor and employer/employee relationship to co-exist and for the work to be done both for an employer and for academic credit. These mixed situations require that the rights and responsibilities of each party are clearly understood. It is incumbent on professors to ensure that the student is aware of any ownership issues, or restrictions on the use of any IP that the student may create for pay, and it is equally the responsibility of the student to inquire about the conditions of employment and what limitations there may be in using any of the work for academic credit. As well, supervisors are responsible for informing graduate students of the nature of any limitations on the use of the student's work for academic credit, or in a thesis. In summary, graduate students who are receiving financial support from professors’ research grants, or contracts, need to understand the precise nature of the financial support and any restrictions that may pertain to using the results of that work.

Does a course instructor have any ownership of a student’s course work?

No, not unless the instructor is a co-author, co-inventor, or a co-creator of the work, or the student was employed to do the work for the instructor. Similarly, the student has no rights to the work of the course instructor and may not copy or publish the instructor's written work, or record lectures, or copy and circulate copies of examinations etc., without permission.

How might issues of confidentiality affect a student’s course work and thesis research?

Conditions of confidentiality that could impact on academic credit must have the student’s consent. In the case of thesis research in which a non-disclosure agreement applies, the student must keep in mind that only results consistent with full disclosure to permit a complete critical assessment by the External Examiner may be included in the thesis document. Any confidentiality agreements that have not been assessed and approved by the Dean’s office of the FGSR have no status in the FGSR.

Does the thesis supervisor have any rights to the results in the thesis?

Possibly, when the supervisor is also a co-creator or collaborator in the work, or if there was an employment arrangement involved. Similarly, the student has rights in research work carried out in collaboration with the supervisor. However, as the author of the thesis, the student has copyright of that work. Moreover, sole authorship of a thesis is a requirement of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Results on which the thesis is based, the data and experimental results, may be co-created, but the thesis itself is to be the work of a single author and copyright ownership rests with that author.

What does having copyright mean for the student’s thesis?

The student owns the copyright and therefore is the only person who may copy the thesis, or permit someone else to make copies. Authorization to the Library and UMI is given by the student in conjunction with the submission of the final corrected copies of the thesis. The University requires that the student formally claim copyright of the thesis. In submitting the thesis for evaluation, the student is proclaiming that the thesis is his/her original work.

Who owns the data in the thesis?

There is no simple answer to this question and again the circumstances need to be examined. Indeed, the notion of ownership is not necessarily applicable to all information and data. If the student generated and compiled the data and was not employed to do so, then the student may claim ownership, to the extent that data can be owned. However, it could be that all, or part, of the data in the thesis may belong to another party, or be co-owned by the supervisor, or another researcher. Anyone who has made a substantive contribution in generating the data, or to the research or experimental design used in producing the data, may have rights to the data. A student may include data that are owned by others if permission to do so has been received from the owner(s), or if the data have previously been published (appropriate attribution is, of course, required). Use of such data does not affect the student’s ownership of copyright in his/her thesis. It is important to remember that copyright protects the published material (in whatever form), not the data or ideas contained in the written work.

Is the thesis a publication?

Yes, regardless of the limited number of copies that are made for distribution at the University and to UMI. The thesis may become widely available to the public through copies deposited in the University and National libraries and at UMI. A student may request that the library copies not be available to the public for up to a year after the date of the thesis defense. This sometimes forms part of an agreement with a third party that has sponsored the student’s research on a commercially viable product and that party wishes to ensure that the results of the research remain confidential while seeking to commercialize the IP.

For More Information

Please refer to the University's Intellectual Property Policy.
Students can also consult “A Guide to Intellectual Property for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars” available through the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS).