Research and Innovation Services


Intellectual Property

Find out more about Intellectual Property rights for Postgraduate Research students.

Who owns the Intellectual Property (IP) of my research?

UCL has a clear policy concerning Intellectual Property Rights for students.

UCL recognises the right of graduate students to own Intellectual Property (IP) that they have generated during the course of their studies. However, there are possible exceptions to this - as listed below:

  • If you are funded by an external Organisation (e.g. Research Council, UK or Overseas Charity, Industry or Commerce, UK or Overseas Government) UCL may enter into a contract with the funder which governs the research. These contracts are negotiated by the UCL Research Services and may require you to assign your IP to either UCL or to the funder.
  • Your supervisor may have research funding from external sources with terms and conditions which require you to assign your IP either to UCL or to the funder.
  • If you are working in collaboration with others, or if the IP generated in the course of your study involves significant University resources such as input from your supervisor or other members of staff, and shared inventions arise, UCL may require you to assign your IP to UCL or place the results in the public domain without restriction.
  • If you are based in an 'embedded' or independent laboratory, special IP conditions apply. Such institutions include The Crick, the UK Dementia Research Institute and the Sainsbury/Wellcome Institute.
  • If you are an employee of an Organisation either full or part-time, your employer may have certain rights to IP generated during the course of your studies. You should check your contract of employment to verify this. Notwithstanding the employment contract, an agreement may be made between UCL and your employer which overrides the employment contract.

Where any of the above apply, you will normally be recognised and rewarded for your contribution in the development of the IP in accordance with University policy and/or your contract of employment.

A new agreement may be required if the direction of your research changes and as a consequence, you change to a different research group.

If you have entered into a formal agreement under any of the circumstances described above, you should check whether this commits you to any particular arrangement concerning the submission and examination of your dissertation and access to your work and results. This may involve you, your examiners or UCL making certain undertakings. For example:

  • you might be required to assign copyright to another party or parties
  • you might be required to submit the final draft of your dissertation to your funder before submitting for examination by UCL
  • your examiners might have to agree to keep the work confidential during the examination process; or
  • UCL might agree to restrict access to the dissertation for a period of time.

You should discuss the implications of your contract with your supervisor; who may draw on the expertise of Research Services and/or UCL Business.

Further information on IP and collaborative working

In the course of almost any research project, you and your supervisor will exchange ideas such that it is often very difficult in retrospect to ascertain to whom any given idea belongs.

If you, your supervisor or another member of a research group feels that misunderstanding may arise in future over the ownership of an idea or piece of work, he or she should make notes (whether in a laboratory notebook and/or student log) at the time and ask the other person or persons concerned to confirm their agreement.

Particular care is needed if your funder is not the same as the group's principal funder: there may be conflicting claims on IP and special arrangements for confidentiality may be needed.

To avoid any possible misunderstanding, students, and supervisors should make themselves aware of any conditions attached to funding agreements and arrangements for participation in group research, including licenses.

As noted above, appropriate acknowledgement of the contribution of co-workers and others is an essential part of your research training and must be clearly explained in the dissertation.