Who Owns Inventions by Students?

Students pay for their education as a rule, so what if they invent something in the course of their study? It’s not the same as an employment situation. So, who owns the intellectual property? If it’s patentable, who gets to apply?

There is no pat answer, since the field is still very much in flux.

A few years ago, a student at University of Missouri developed a smartphone app that became very popular and, for him, very profitable. Once the University got wind of this, its lawyers jumped in and demanded a share—of the ownership and the profits.

UM eventually backed down, and several colleges revamped their rules to limit their rights to inventions created at the direction of staff. Studies have shown, however, that traditional rules used by colleges to retain ownership of work done either by staff or by students is largely still in place.