Note: I have absolutely 0 experience in this type of thing.

Problem summary: I am a final year student doing my final year project. I created an innovative product (a software) as part of my research. However, I was actually planning to start up a company using the idea. I wanted to protect my work and my supervisor said that the university's research management department will be able to apply for Intellectual Property... thing. However after reading through their documents, it was stated that my university will own the rights to my product (as I am a student). However, I will be paid the equity (which I will own around 90%) if my product is successfully commercialized by the university.

Therefore, my questions are:

  1. Does this mean that I won't have any rights to call it my product after applying for the IP rights?
  2. I won't be able to start a company using the product anymore, right?
  3. If it is successfully commercialized, who will improve on the product (updates, etc.) after I am no longer a student? What if I work with the university after graduating?

Extras: I was not paid by the university (I am the one paying for tuition fees so it doesn't seem right to me for them to 'steal' my work).

1 Answer 1


The answers to these questions will depend strongly on the details of the contract between the student and the university. Although the student was not a paid employee, the student presumably used university equipment and resources, and perhaps the professional advice of the professor. This might justify an agreement granting the university some rights in such developments.

The students rights will also depend very much on what country this is in. Copyright and IP law is not the same in all countries, and might limit the effect of the contract. The student should get an official representative of the university to explain exactly what rights the University claims, and how the situation would be handled. If the response is unsatisfactory, or the student is unsure, consulting a lawyer skilled in IP law and such contracts m would be a good idea. The exact wording of the contract will be important.

In some jurisdictions the student-author would have so-called "moral rights" including the right to assert authorship, which would affect the answer to question number 1.

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