Skip to content

Student IP Ownership

Students own their works developed in lecture-based courses or outside of any direct support from UW. If a student is an employee of the UW, including a graduate student doing funded research, then works created through the student’s employment are subject to the UW IP policy (EO 36). If a student participates in a research lab or in sponsored research, the student’s contributions to IP will be handled consistently with that research portfolio.

The UW encourages its students to look for opportunities to have impact. This may be in the form of scholarly publication, a career in the arts or in industry, or through entrepreneurship.

How IP may be assignable to the UW

Employment at UW

As an employee of the UW, a student is subject to the same policies that apply to faculty and staff. A very common form of employment for graduate students is to work on funded research projects.

Participation in a research group, laboratory, or sponsored project

The management of IP generated under these circumstances must maintain the integrity of the research program, acknowledge the use of public resources, and comply with the terms of the sponsored research contracts. A student’s contributions would have the same IP obligations as other participants in this research group, laboratory, or sponsored project.

How graduate works are deposited affects intellectual property protection

For the purposes of clarity in distinguishing between the various options in depositing graduate thesis or dissertation work with the University, the UW Library has made a few updates to their webpage offering guidance for graduate students on sharing their graduate work in UW’s Institutional Repository (“IR”).  The update to the guidance includes clarification regarding the three options for depositing graduate works in the IR which are: a.) Open Access b.) Restrict to UW and c.) No Access and how those publishing choices affect any pending patent applications for IP discussed within the work.

“Open Access” means that the deposited work would immediately be found on the open web and would be findable in Google Scholar. This selection would be considered a public disclosure of whatever IP may be contained in the work.  “Restrict to UW” means that the work may be restricted for a period of years to only those with a UW NetID login or those using computers on the UW campus. However many students are unaware that selecting this method still qualifies as a public disclosure which may affect the timing of any relevant patent applications.  In contrast, selecting “No Access” means that the thesis or dissertation itself will not be available to anyone for a period of one year (to allow for a patent application without public disclosure), although the metadata associated with the work would be available on the Research Works landing page and findable within Google Scholar.  If a student selecting “No Access” still has a pending patent application and does not want to publicly disclose, they may request an extension of “No Access” for another year.

The updated guidance on the website clarifies that any student choosing the “Restrict to UW” option for depositing their graduate work in the IR is making a public disclosure of the work described therein. This updated information is also reflected on the library maintained Canvas site, a site which provides instruction on the various methods of publication.