Students and Intellectual Property

Ownership and Assignment

Students, not being employees of JCU, own any intellectual property that they generate during their studies (refer provision 4 of the Intellectual Property Policy). There are two situations where a student may be required to assign their intellectual property rights in the results of their research to JCU:

  1. where a research project is funded by a third party (eg. an industry partner) and the terms of the project agreement require the assignment of IP (eg. to permit the industry partner to have unfettered access to and use of some of the project outcomes);

  2. where the student is researching as part of a team of staff and/or students, there is the potential for commercialisation, and it is desirable to have single-point ownership and equitable treatment of project participants.

In the first situation, the agreement that is reached between JCU and the third party must be supplemented by an agreement between JCU and the student that mirrors the provisions of the head agreement, in order that the student’s activities are brought within its scope.

In either case, the student will standardly be required to agree to terms in three areas:

  1. to assign their intellectual property rights in the project outcomes to JCU,

  2. to keep confidential any confidential information to which the student is exposed during the course of the project, and

  3. to restrict their capacity to make publications on the basis of the project outcomes.

A third-party agreement may require just some of these – eg. a research project may consist of collaboration with an indigenous community where although JCU owns the copyright in a final report, there may be restrictions on the researcher’s capacity to publish the report, or the contents of the report may be subject to vetting.

Students on CRC Scholarships or who are participating in CRC projects are standardly required to agree to these terms, either with JCU or the CRC.

Thesis Copyright

JCU must, however, ensure that any agreement with a third party does not affect the student’s ownership copyright in the student’s thesis.

However JCU may agree that in compelling circumstances –where publication of the thesis puts commercialisation of research outcomes at risk – the thesis is to be examined under conditions of confidence and kept in restricted access in the JCU library for a period not normally exceeding 18 months. This period allows for patenting of the results, and should terminate once a patent application is lodged.


In the event that there is a commercial outcome from research in which the student has participated the student benefits on an equal footing with staff members [IP Policy, s8]. To ensure that students are treated equitably, the following process applies:

  • the researchers must determine how their share of the returns is to be divided among them and inform the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of their decision, and

  • where a student is involved, that decision is subject to the approval of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.