Staff IP

Ownership - employed staff

Under English law, ownership of IP created by employees in the course of their employment generally belongs to the employer, if they are made by an employee in the course of the employee's duties. Therefore, as a general principle, the University of Plymouth owns all IP Rights created by its employed staff. 

More specifically, an invention or other IP made or created by an employee of the University shall be taken to belong to the University if:

  • it was made in the course of the normal duties of the employee or in the course of duties falling outside his normal duties, but specifically assigned to him, and the circumstances in either case were such that an invention or IP might reasonably be expected to result from the carrying out of his duties; or
  • the invention or IP was made in the course of the duties of the employee and, at the time of making or creating the invention, because of the nature of his duties and the particular responsibilities arising from the nature of his duties, he had a special obligation to further the interests of the employer’s business or activities - as with academic research at the University.
Any other invention or IP made by an employee, which does not satisfy either of the above tests, and is not otherwise covered by a contractual obligation, shall belong to the employee.

The above principle is further detailed in Appendix A (Inventions, Patents, Copyright and Post Termination Restrictions) of the University’s terms and conditions of employment.

The University seeks to support and encourage employees who create IP in the course of their normal duties that has commercial and/or academic value. As a general principle, employed staff will therefore be eligible to receive support advice and assistance from the University and to share the benefits generated from exploitation of the IP Rights created by them in the course of their employment following the principles laid down in the University’s IP Policy.

Scholarly works

As a general principle, the University owns the IP Rights in any teaching materials created by employees of the University and used, or intended for, the delivery of courses. Examples of such materials include, course books, course manuals, case studies, lecture slides, multi-media works (including podcasts and webcasts), tutorial papers, model answers, examination materials and software. However, the University will not normally assert ownership or ask for assignment of the copyright in certain academic/scholarly material, such as:

  • Journal articles, conference papers, presentations etc;
  • Notes for employees’ personal use (not including laboratory notebooks) ;
  • Theses and dissertations;
  • Works of Art, novels, poems etc; or
  • Books.
This list is not exhaustive and all employees should be careful to check any third-party commitments relating to these works at all times.

Physical materials

Any materials deposited in the University Library, or in a digital repository established by the University, or in University Schools, becomes the property of the University and will be made available for use on loan and possible copying, in whole or in part, for private study or research unless the author wishes to restrict access. For the avoidance of doubt, the University’s ownership will be of the physical or electronic copy of the material, and not of the copyright or any other IP Rights which it contains, unless that otherwise belongs to the University already.

Ownership - non-employed staff

Where an individual works for but is not employed by the University it is important to establish their exact relationship with the University, and it is the responsibility of the staff involved in a project or module to inform Human Resources (Talent and Organisational Development) of any academic visitors, including visitors with honorary titles (for example, Emeritus and/or Honorary Professors) and visiting fellows, students and secondees to the University to enable the University to consider whether any agreements need to be put in place with any third party in relation to the IP rights and obligations of such visitors. 

Emeritus and honorary staff

The ownership of IP generated for example by Emeritus or Honorary staff (if they are not employees of the University) is determined by their contractual relationship or terms of their appointment with the University. The general principle is that the University will seek to own IP that arises from a project that they are engaged on for the University or which is run through the University or if University facilities have been used to enable the project to take place.

Even if the University does not own IP generated by Emeritus or Honorary staff they will still be supported and thus eligible to receive advice and assistance from the University.

Visiting staff and guest lecturers/speakers

The ownership of IP generated by Visiting Staff and Guest Lecturers will depend on the nature of their relationship with the University, and the contractual terms upon which they are engaged. If the materials from the guest lecturer or event are to be used after the event, and the IP is not owned by the University, the guest lecturer/speaker or visiting staff member will be asked to provide the University with rights to use the materials. 

Visiting Fellows, researchers and secondees

As part of research projects and exchange programmes, the University often hosts visiting fellows, researchers and secondees. The ownership of IP created by such persons will be determined by the contractual terms in place between the University, the visitor and the visitor’s employer (as applicable). Where such visitors are working on projects together with University staff, it is imperative that IP ownership is agreed and clearly set out before the visit commences.