Property rights, right of use and exploitation, and (non-)disclosure of items designed and built by students in the context of their studies.
There are units of study where examination is (partly) based on items which have been conceived and created by students, individually or in a team, and which are submitted to the examiner. An item can be anything, ranging from an essay or paper to a working prototype.
The rules regarding the intellectual property rights, the use or exploitation, and the (non-)disclosure to third parties of these items are as follows.
- The originator of an item has the (intellectual) property rights. If the item is the result of group work, the group has the (intellectual) property rights. The fact that the originator is a student at a university does not affect the originator’s rights.
- Before a student (or group) claims (intellectual) property rights he (they) should verify that the teaching staff agrees that he is (they are) the originator. A students who builds a prototype upon instructions of staff, in order to show that he is capable of building, is the owner of the device he built or software he wrote, but *not* automatically of the idea behind it. The property rights of the idea would lie with staff.
- The owner of an item can freely use the item, e.g. for commercial purposes.
But note the following:
- If a student realizes a product based on an original idea, i.e. the student has the intellectual property rights of the idea behind the product, but the realization of the product relies on parts owned by others, then ownership of the idea is not enough to guarantee the right of use of the product; an agreement with the owners of these parts is mandatory.
- If the owner is a group of students, not a single student, every member of the group must agree with the use for commercial purposes.
- The fact that owners are students at a university does not affect the ownership of the students. As a consequence, the university accepts no responsibility of any kind for the use of the item by third parties.
- An item designed and built in the context of a programme of studies is a public item in principle.
Submission to the examiner is treated as if it were an internal publication.
- To protect the interests of third parties which may be involved, it is possible to close a non-disclosure agreement for some parts of the item.
- The intention of the owner to exploit the item for commercial purposes is no ground for non-disclosure.
- The university can use the results of internal publications, and hence also of items submitted for examination, for its own purposes of teaching and research, of course with due observance of the rules for acknowledgement of the owners.
- If the owner of an item intends to submit a patent application, he can ask for suspension of the rules under 3. above. Under these circumstances the university must grant the requested suspension, and agree to a period of non-disclosure. The non-disclosure agreement will contain an expiration date, which guarantees that the patent application can be submitted and handled.