Policy Steward:  Office of the Vice President for Research


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    The advent of heightened interest around the issue of ownership of the intellectual property (IP) created, invented or discovered by students has created a much more complex situation for students, faculty and providers of sponsorship and case studies. The issues revolve around the following questions on IP ownership:

    1. What if students make an invention in a course they are taking?
    2. Are grad students different from undergraduate students?
    3. What if undergrads work "for free" in a University laboratory to gain experience?
    4. What about student interns, both at Penn State and at other institutions?
    5. What about undergraduate theses?
    6. What about situations where students develop design changes or problem solving in case-based learning on problems submitted by companies?

    To deal with these challenges, and to create a practical and comprehensive policy, the forms detailed under "Special Student Intellectual Property Agreement Form" have been developed.

    As a simple summary of the principal points underlying the forms:

    1. If any student, grad or undergrad, taking any course for credit develops IP, the IP belongs to the student and an IP assignment agreement is not required,
    2. If graduate students are doing any research in a University facility, all IP belongs to the University and an IP assignment agreement is required.

    3. If undergraduate students are working in a research setting or in an instructional capacity,
    4. If students develop IP in solving projects in a "for credit" course using case-based learning based on externally-submitted (company, institute, or non-profit) problems,
    5. Summer students/interns at Penn State and Penn State students at other institutions need to sign the appropriate IP agreement for the host institution.

    6. For required senior theses, or seminar with a research component, the student must have available an option that allows them to retain their IP.

    7. Medical, law and MBA students retain their IP rights, and faculty should be cognizant of which projects require IP protection in their assignments.

    8. For "works of art", including poetry, sculpture, graphic arts, painting, etc., all rights rest with the creator unless there is some specific agreement/contract which designates the effort as a "work for hire."

    9. If a company sponsors student research in connection with a "for credit" course, they need to be aware that the results generated,

    Forms are available, in the policy guideline IPG02, Special Student Intellectual Property Agreement Forms to deal with all of the situations requiring assignment, or notification of the sponsors of the research. Faculty have the responsibility to get the appropriate IP agreement signed.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research.


    Other Policies in this manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

    IP01– Ownership and Management of Intellectual Property

    IPG02 - Special Student Intellectual Property Agreement Forms

    Effective Date: January 7, 2013
    Date Approved: September 14, 2012
    Date Published: January 7, 2013 (Editorial changes- November 19, 2015)

    Most Recent Changes:

    Revision History (and effective dates):

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