This blog post was written by Russell Lindzon, a summer student employed by our firm who hails from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

Every university in Ontario offers programs to encourage entrepreneurship and the commercialization of technology developed on campus by its students and faculty. We are seeing an increasing number of these university based startups coming in to our office with no knowledge about their university’s invention policy. One client was pretty shocked when we advised them that their university could be a 50-50 partner in the technology based upon our review of their university’s invention policy. They had no idea that an invention policy existed or that it could apply to their invention.

After doing an informal survey, we found that each university in Ontario has different policies in place. Student inventors should be aware of their particular university’s policy before they begin developing their invention. Otherwise, they might discover that they have an unwanted partner!

At one end of the spectrum is one university whose invention policy makes the university a joint owner with a student in an invention where the student creates the invention “with substantial use of university facilities”. While “substantial use of university facilities” is ambiguous and not clearly defined in this university’s policy, it would seem likely that participation in a university accelerator or incubator program would likely qualify.

Certain universities on the other hand have taken a more liberal approach when creating and implementing their invention policies for student inventors. In some cases, the university will assume no share of revenue, ownership or copyright of an invention created by students, regardless of their use of university facilities, and recognizes full ownership rights over IP of the inventor.

It is imperative that student inventors inform themselves of their university’s invention policy in order to ensure they are not creating an unwanted partnership with their university. In some instances, students may opt to attend one university over another based on the support available and the ownership implications of the university’s invention policy.