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I am currently doing my graduation project. I am an undergraduate student in a UK university, and invented a new diagnostic device for clinical use. I finished my prototype and it's nearly the end of the project. However, I need to write a long report about it for graduation and I haven't yet filed for a patent. The deadline for the report is in two days.

What kind of declaration in the report could protect my rights for patent registration? I built the device entirely at my own expense. Also, there is a chance that the college will select my report and post it online, for the public to see.

  • If you submit the report, who might see it? Your professor -- anybody else? Would it be published? – Daniel Jun 14 '15 at 0:04
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    Thanks for the reply ,my professor and my second supervisor could see it as far as I know, there is a chance to win sort of distinguish project and will be published on department's webpage that anyone could download it .. – Yank Jun 14 '15 at 0:06
  • Okay... I'm not sure about the timing details in the UK, but whatever the rules are, you should try to go to a patent attorney ASAP. He might have a year, he might have as long as he needs, he might have less time than that... But don't wait for an answer here before going to see him. – Daniel Jun 14 '15 at 0:12
  • Ok , after I hand in my report I will go to see him,however I'm too busy on writing report these days, I hope I could find a temporary protection on this, maybe I should add copy rights in the title page? – Yank Jun 14 '15 at 0:16
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    Your university might already own the IP to your invention -- check your conditions of enrolment. – Flup Jun 14 '15 at 18:42
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In North America, almost all universities claim both the copyright and the patent rights to all inventions performed using university resources, even if you're not employed by the university.

That's why stuff like src/bin/csh/csh.c from NetBSD et al. say "Copyright (c) 1980, 1991, 1993 The Regents of the University of California.", and not "Bill Joy", who's the actual author of csh.

About the only university in North America that lets you use whatever university resources are necessary, yet still own full copyright and patent rights for any such invention is University of Waterloo, which explicitly boasts such status for its renowned engineering programmes.

Some other universities let you own the copyright, but almost all still reserve patent rights to themselves (including those in England); and these policies are claimed to apply even to the undergraduate students who aren't getting any financial support for their work! The intellectual property rights policies of western universities are almost always publicly available on their website, so, you should just search to take a look at yours.

As for whether anyone would be able to acquire a patent in the first place... In the US, you have 1 year to register for a patent since first publication; elsewhere, once the work has been publicly disclosed, no patent can be obtained anymore. Since you are usually obligated to disclose patentable inventions to your university, you should ensure your supervisor and second marker do not disclose your project prior to securing the patents.

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    Your description doesn't match my experience with respect to copyright. Of the 4 US colleges / universities where I've studied or been employed, none of them have had policies asserting general copyright ownership of the works I created. I find that policies are much more narrowly tailored, See for example the University of California's policy. I don't think my experience has been unusual. – Nate Eldredge Oct 28 '15 at 13:47
  • Just because people ignore the policies, and mostly get away with it, doesn't mean that the policies don't exist. If you'd actually read the policy you link to, you'd notice that "software" and "final technical reports" for which you get any money other than "financial aid" does belong to UC. copyright.universityofcalifornia.edu/resources/… "4. Sponsored Work". In fact, it is usually your duty to promptly notify the university of any inventions you come up with, see cr.yp.to/patents/tarzian.html for hilarious clarification requests for these policies. – cnst Oct 29 '15 at 4:54

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