The division of intellectual property rights will be explicitly specified in every research contract negotiated by competent personnel, no matter who the funder is. In my experience, I have seen that the typical arrangements fall into five rough categories along a spectrum of control:
- The researcher's organization retains all IP rights.
- The researcher's organization retains all IP rights, but automatically grants a non-exclusive license to the funding organization.
- The researcher's organization retains all IP rights, but the funding organization has an option to exclusively license all IP rights.
- The researcher's organization transfers all IP rights to the funding organization, but retains an automatic license to the IP.
- The researcher's organization transfers all IP rights to the funding organization.
Research contracts also often divide a project into different areas that mix and match these rights. For example, the researcher's organization might have non-exclusive licensing (#2) for all basic research work, but transfer all rights for a planned prototype (#5) to the funding organization.
Corporately funded research contracts tend to fall anywhere along the spectrum from #2 to #5, depending on the nature of the research and the motivation for the contract. More basic research tends to be viewed as "pre-competitive," and companies funding such research will generally be large and with a long view and happy to grant liberal rights, since they are more concerned with reshaping their strategic landscape (e.g., extending Moore's Law) and trust their ability to build internally off of basic research breakthroughs. More applied research and research funded by smaller companies tends to be more immediately relevant to competitive advantage: it tends to have much more tightly restricted IP rights and at its most applied shades into consulting.