What is intellectual property?

Intellectual Property (IP) is a collective name for a set of legally enforceable interests which confer on their owners the exclusive right to use inventions and fixed expressions of ideas. Patents protect industrially applicable devices, processes, and chemical compounds. Copyright protects written, musical, and artistic works and most computer software. Two different forms of design right protect shape and appearance. Other rights protect databases, plant varieties, and semiconductor topographies.

Why is IP important?

IP is an asset which can – like other forms of property – be bought, sold, lent, and mortgaged.

If managed wisely, IP can be a significant income-generator. Universities are often rich sources of the ideas that IP can protect, and many now actively protect and manage the IP generated by staff and students.

What is the University of Westminster’s policy?

Undergraduate and masters students will only exceptionally be required to assign their IP.

New PhD students may be required to assign to the University the IP they generate in the course of their studies. This places these PhD students on the same footing as their supervisors; IP generated by them in the course of employment also normally belongs to the University. Concentrating ownership in the University’s hands makes it quicker and easier to arrange protection for IP with strong commercial potential, and places the administrative and financial burden of such protection on the University rather than on individual inventors. Note that not all PhD students will need to assign their IP to the University.

How does this affect me?

If you are an undergraduate or masters student and have made unusually heavy use of University facilities or staff expertise in developing IP with clear commercial potential, your Dean of Faculty may – after assessing your case – require you to make an assignment to the University by deed at any point during your programme.

If you are starting a PhD this year in a faculty where IP assignment is routinely made, your faculty will require you on registration to sign a deed (a binding legal contract). This will transfer to the University ownership of the IP you will generate during your programme.

No matter which student category you fall into, if the University commercialises IP you have generated, you will be entitled to a share of the profits made from that IP. Your share will be calculated according to the same formula used to remunerate staff-inventors.

Under this formula, you will receive at least 50 per cent (and in some cases up to 90 per cent) of profits flowing from the IP you have assigned to the University. If by the end of your programme, the University has not commercialised IP you have assigned to it, the IP will usually be transferred back to you so that you can freely use it in your future career.

Electronic submission and intellectual property

Students may be required to submit coursework electronically for textual similarity review to iParadigms (Turnitin UK) or Safeassign for the detection of plagiarism. Electronically submitted coursework will be made available on University systems for the purpose of marking, assessment and quality assurance and all submitted coursework to iParadigms or Safeassign will be included as source documents in the iParadigms or Safeassign reference databases solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the Turnitin UK or Safeassign services shall be subject to such Terms and Conditions of Use as may be agreed between iParadigms and Blackboard (respectively) and the University of Westminster from time to time and posted on the Turnitin UK or Blackboard websites. For any other use of submitted papers, current University of Westminster Intellectual Property policy applies.

Contact us for more information

If you would like a copy of the full University IP policy, or would like more details of the profit-sharing formula, contact Cameron Thomson at [email protected].

If you would like to know whether your Faculty normally requires PhD students to assign their IP, contact Huzma Kelly at [email protected].