I'm working for a university as a research programmer (prof staff, exempt) on an external grant ("soft money"), and there is a clear understanding between me and my immediate supervisor/PI, and at least one other PI, that I can use a certain non-trivial amount of my time each week to work on my own projects (the so-called "20% time").
I've tried investigating what the university would officially think of any such endeavour, and I found the IP policy (IU) that seems to suggest that patentable inventions unconditionally belong to the university, whereas general copyrightable work does belong to its authors (unless they perform such work specifically for university use, e.g. course materials).
Apparently, the policy even says that it covers even non-paid individuals, part-time individuals and students (which are not even just "non-paid" for their activities, but are actually required to support the university by paying tuition and various other fees).
Supposedly, it basically applies to everyone who uses University resources, however, the term University resources itself is not defined amongst all the other terms that are, in fact, defined very specifically for this exact IP policy directly within the policy.
Does a public university in the US really have such powers to implement a policy like that, and to claim patent rights to inventions which are not performed in the official line of duty and even oftentimes outside of the work clock?
Have such policies ever been reaffirmed through courts? Especially when applied to non-compensated employees, or the various slave labour?
What do I do to avoid being covered by such policy?
- Must I never perform any parts of my own research on any equipment purchased through university, even on grant money?
- Cannot use the monitors owned by the university together with my personally-owned laptop?
- Cannot use university's internet connection to connect to my externally hosted personal servers, where the use of university's internet connection is merely coincidental to my own research on my own computing resources, and could easily be replaced by an off-the-shelf 30$/mo service from elsewhere without any significant side effects? (I'm just using ssh, basically.)
- Cannot use my non-trivial work time that was allowed for my own research by my supervisors to do my own research? Do I have to request to be re-classified from being a full-time employee (1.00) to being a part-time employee (e.g. 0.80) to have my 20% time unencumbered?
- Cannot sit in my office space doing my own search?
- Cannot sit in a university building whilst doing any such research of my own?
- Cannot be anywhere on campus doing any of my own research?