I'm working on a final year project on software development. I intend to publish it as a research paper on computer science, but the university says that it will hold intellectual-property rights (IPR) over all final year projects.

Can I publish the project as an independent research paper in a journal by including me and co-authors or will the IPR of the university cause problems?

  • 6
    What intellectual property rights usually means in circumstances like this is that you can't file a patent, or sell software, that originates in your project without permission. The university generally wouldn't complain about publishing papers. You might want to verify this with somebody, though. – Peter Shor Jun 19 '19 at 1:22
  • 2
    You need permission, and it is hard to envisage circumstances in which permission would be withheld, unless your'e doing something obviously unreasonable. – Michael Kay Jun 19 '19 at 16:46
  • 1
    In Greece at least, your thesis is co-owned by you and the university intellectually, so you do need their ok to do anything with it. I have never heard of a case where they decline though, especially for publishing papers (which is in their best interest). – Reinstate Monica Jun 20 '19 at 7:21
  • 1
    Have you actually asked the university if you can publish a paper on this (and what acknowledgements they would require if you did) ? You may be reading more into this than you should. It usually just means they are asserting ownership for patent rights and to insure the institution gets it's name published. Nothing unusual. – StephenG Jun 20 '19 at 7:36
  • @StephenG Yeah, I probably only have to send an email and ask for permission. After reading the answers. – theenigma017 Jun 21 '19 at 16:39

First, it would be good to know if that is a claim they can legally make where you are. It is possible that it is an empty claim.

Second, if it is a proper claim, you should learn how it is interpreted by the university. A place making such a claim should have an office at which you can learn the consequences. I suspect that all it means is that you need permission from them to publish and, perhaps, include a reference to the university in the acknowledgements.

But forbidding publication would be unlikely except in extreme circumstances and assigning it to another "author" would be unethical.

My guess is that you have a way forward for nearly any sort of publication. It is actually to the university's benefit to have students publishing.


As Buffy says, it's very likely that you can publish your work. What you should do is discuss this with your project advisor and probably have them as co-author, as I assume that they had a role in the project, right? Additionally they are certainly able to help you make the publication more likely to be accepted.

Institutions usually retain (some) IP rights on the outcome of students projects because such projects are part of the curriculum and usually include work done by the professors; sometimes the main idea is actually based on the professor's research topic. But this is not meant to limit your ability to publish, it's mostly for the cases where the project could lead to a commercial application based on the university/professor IP.


This is something you should have checked before signing any contract as student/employee at this university.

Certain legislation give more intellectual rights to scholars / teachers in some places than others.

Things like "Academic freedom" or "University teacher exception" clauses may exist in the IP legislation of your country.

  • 11
    In the U.S., so far as I've seen, students are not presented with contracts to sign, and this kind of IP thing not only is not on their own radar, but is never mentioned by "orientation" people. So after a year or two whatever-the-rules-are shows up as a fait-accompli to which the students didn't know they were agreeing... – paul garrett Jun 18 '19 at 21:21
  • 3
    @paulgarrett OP is from India though, and they do things different enough there that I'm not sure it's comparable. – Mast Jun 19 '19 at 6:15
  • 2
    @paulgarrett it is as I suspected, then. Quite sad and unfair. – mathreadler Jun 19 '19 at 15:05
  • 1
    @paulgarrett: in the U.S., if you haven't signed a contract, I don't see how the university has any legal rights to anything you do. But probably students do sign a contract at some point without realizing it. – Peter Shor Jun 20 '19 at 21:46
  • 2
    @PeterShor, well, probably, but, as with many publishers, there is the attempt to make it (implicitly!) a buy-out rather than buy-in. So, in the fine print somewhere, it says "by submitting/registering [existing?]... you agree to our ... IP? ... policies...". Enforceability and/or hassle potential is unclear. As I know you know... – paul garrett Jun 20 '19 at 21:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.