Universities Seek to Profit from Students’ Inventions

Posted January 26, 2011 in Labor and Employment by Arthur Buono

The education industry is eyeing a new, lucrative source of revenue: student inventions. That’s right, not only must students pay tens of thousands annually in tuition (for the privilege of learning nothing, some say*), but also fork over a percentage of profits from their works.

  • Cash-strapped schools squeeze last ounce of profit from student body
  • Writing rules to get a share of profits from student inventions
  • Should IP rules be the same for employment and education?
  • Copy this link to share with friends: http://bit.ly/ePekoo


Rules for Ownership of Inventions Cut Both Ways

A University of Missouri student was shocked and intimidated when university lawyers demanded a cut from a popular iPhone app he wrote with classmates. In the end the university backed down and wrote a set of intellectual property guidelines applicable to students’ work. No doubt other schools will try the same thing.

So if you enter college you can be compelled to hand over part of anything you develop while there. Now, this is typical of employment contracts. If an employee develops an idea on the job, it belongs to the company. Some schools, however, see a permissive approach as a way to attract bright, motivated students.

If a student develops an idea under faculty guidance it makes sense for the university to have some ownership. If the student uses university computing resources to do it, the university should have a cut too. But if the idea springs from a midnight bong session and the kid uses just the U’s wi-fi access (or none at all) how’s that fair?

* College Students Not Learning Much
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