By Becky Mahurin
As inventions and copyrightable material become increasingly common products of research, the
question of students' rights in intellectual property is raised. Students, particularly graduate
students, are often involved in collaborative research which results in an invention or software.
Both students and faculty should have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities
relating to such development.
Montana Board of Regents Patent Policy defines student employees and "any other persons including
students using facilities" the same as faculty. By this definition and under this policy, any
invention or patentable technology (including software) created using University facilities or
as a part of a person's assigned duties "shall be considered the property of the University." MSU
has instituted a "Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Student and University Patent Rights and
Copyright" (MOU) to inform students of their responsibility to assign inventions to the University.
This form also serves to assure students that they have the right to submit a thesis, dissertation
or academic publication/product which is related to or based on their work. MSU will always look to
reserve student rights relating to attaining a degree. MSU may ask for a brief delay in publication
in order for a patent to be filed to protect the technology.
Students should also be aware that in exchange for assignment of technology that they develop, MSU
may elect to protect the technology through patenting. An estimated cost for a US patent is
currently $10,000. Foreign patenting can quickly reach $100,000, depending on the number of
countries in which one files. The Research and Development Institute, the patent management
organization for MSU, pays the costs of patent filings. Inventors on a patent, by Regents Policy,
share 50 percent of net revenues from any licensing or sale of the technology. Most students
believe that patent filings are prohibitively costly for students and that sharing in net revenues,
while having no responsibility for patent costs, is a good deal.
Lastly, the Student MOU reminds the student that he/she may not release confidential information
gained through the project without the permission of MSU. Such confidential information includes
company proprietary information as well as information for which MSU wishes to file patent.
The Student MOU is an important tool for faculty and students. I encourage all faculty to institute
this MOU with each student working with them.
If you have questions, please call me
Director of the Technology Transfer Office at MSU.