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Student Intellectual Property Policy

Objective

Florida State University is committed to providing students a learning environment that supports the dissemination of knowledge. Intellectual property, e.g., inventions and creative works, conceived by FSU students as a part of their education may have commercial value that will benefit the public, thus warranting patent or copyright protection. The purpose of this policy is to provide administrative guidance on the ownership of the intellectual property created by FSU students.

Definitions

Creative Works - "Creative Works" shall include any copyrightable material, such as printed material, computer software or databases, audio and visual material, circuit diagrams, architectural and engineering drawings, lectures, musical or dramatic compositions, choreographic works, and pictorial or graphic works.

Inventions - "Inventions" shall include any discovery, process, composition of matter, article of manufacture, know-how, design, model, technological development, biological material, strain, variety, culture of any organism, or portion, modification, translation of these items, and any mark used in connection with these items.

Ownership of Intellectual Property

Full-Time, Part-Time, and Visiting Students

Students who are not considered Florida State University employees shall retain all right, title, and interest in Creative Works and Inventions conceived or first reduced to practice without significant university support. University support shall include the use of university funds, personnel, facilities, equipment, materials, or technological information, and includes such support provided by other public or private organizations when it is arranged, administered, or controlled by the university.

Student Employees

Students who are Florida State University employees are obligated under the university policies and procedures pertaining to copyrights and patents as delineated in the 2008 Faculty Handbook: Section 6, Policies and Procedures; Patents and University-Sponsored Educational Materials. Florida State University student employees shall include, but are not limited to, Graduate Assistants, Graduate Research Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Student Other Personnel Services (OPS) employees, including undergraduate students. Ownership of Creative Works and Inventions derived from activities directly related to a student's employment at FSU shall belong to the university.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind. Unlike real property or personal property, intellectual property is not something you can hold in your hand. The law gives rights to intellectual property to its creator(s) who may legally transfer his or her rights as he or she chooses.

Patents give rights in inventions to their inventors. The holder(s) of a patent has the right to go to court to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the country which issued the patent as well as importing the invention into the country which issued the patent.

Copyrights give rights in creative works to their authors. The holder(s) of a copyright has the right to:   

  • Reproduce the work   
  • Distribute copies of the work   
  • Perform the work   
  • Display the work   
  • Create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)

Who Owns the Intellectual Property Created by FSU Students?

The normal situation is that for undergraduates, the student owns the IP. There may be a few circumstances where that changes (continue reading for information on significant university resources).

For graduate students who receive no financial support through FSU, the student owns the IP.

For graduate students who do receive financial support through FSU, it is normal that FSU owns the IP, but continue reading for information on significant university resources.

The FSU Student IP Policy gives guidance on who owns the IP created by students. The Policy states: "Students who are not considered Florida State University employees shall retain all right, title, and interest in Creative Works and Inventions conceived or first reduced to practice without significant university support. This means that the starting point is that Students own their IP, except in specific circumstances described below.

Students who use significant university resources to create IP or create such during the course of their employment (as paid graduate students, to give one example) at FSU shall disclose the IP to the university. The university may then pursue the commercialization of the IP or waive its rights back to the creator(s) at its discretion.

Students who create IP on their own time using their own resources own the IP.

Examples Where Students Own the Intellectual Property:

An FSU student who is not employed by the university and uses a whiteboard on campus to draw a schematic of their invention is the owner of the invention, (or makes other non-substantial use of FSU resources i.e., uses FSU resources consistent with being a student), is the owner of the invention.

An FSU graduate assistant who is employed to conduct research in the biological sciences and creates an unrelated mobile application on their own time is owner of that work.

An FSU student who is not employed by the university, who creates IP and submits it as part of the requirements for a course credit is, the owner of the IP.

An FSU student who works outside the university in a situation where IP is created, owns the IP (from the university perspective unless the student has made other arrangements with the place of work).

Occasionally, in these situations above, the student or others believe that there is sufficient commercial potential in the IP that it is important to confirm the student’s ownership and certify that the university has no ownership interest in the IP. To do so, the student shall disclose the IP to the university using one of the university Disclosure Forms. In the Form, the student shall confirm that they were an enrolled FSU student at that time, were not a FSU employee; state the expected year and program of graduation; provide details of any outside interest in the disclosed IP and request that the university waive any interest (see last part of final page of Form).

Examples Where Students Shall Disclose the Intellectual Property to the University, Including Examples of ‘Significant Resources’:

An FSU student who is not employed by the university and uses the FSU supercomputer facilities to reduce the invention to practice shall disclose the invention to FSU.

An FSU student who is not employed by the university and makes ongoing use of FSU laboratories to run experiments under faculty supervision shall disclose the invention to FSU.

An FSU graduate assistant who invents something during the course of their appointment and uses an FSU laboratory to reduce the invention to practice shall disclose the invention to FSU.