I have personally faced a variation of this issue (on the student's side).
In my case, some of the research that I had done during my graduate studies has not yet been submitted as publications, while I had already taken a position in the industry. Moreover, my new position in the industry had a high-level overlap with the not-yet-published research. Both were in the area of computational electromagnetics, however, the research itself had nothing concrete to do with my new position.
For me, the course of action that I followed was (IANAL):
Before engaging in any work on this research after starting the work in industry, sign a Memorandum (sometimes called Memorandum of understanding) in which my new industry employer allows me to do particular work.
Pursuant to your employment agreement, the purpose of this memorandum is to give you written approval to engage in the activity outlined below on your off-duty hours. Your activity will be limited to:
- Proof-reading and performing minor editing of manuscript titled
<Publication title> for which you are a co-author.
<Industry organization Name> Intellectual Property, it is very important that you do not engage in any activities beyond the scope of the outlined activity.
It would be wise to not perform additional research at this stage, as it usually falls under different categorizations and can be forbidden by the organization/funding authorities' policies.
In addition, sign an explicit engagement agreement with your new industry employer, which ensures that I do not transfer any information to my new employer without TTO (Technology Transfer Office) consent.
Without first contacting the
<University name> Technology Transfer Office¹,
<Employee name> shall not transfer to the
<Industry organization name>, or otherwise attempt to give the
<Industry organization name> an interest in, any intellectual property
<Employee name> developed pursuant to their engagement by the
Here, the purpose of the first action is to ensure the limited scope of the activity on the publication and ensure the trace that the industry is aware of such a future publication. While the second item ensures that no unlicensed technology travels back to the new organization without legal approval from the University.
This is an involved process, which requires the student and their new employer to participate; however, with some modifications for local legal requirements, it should be possible. It would be also important to look into the dates on the documents: publication submission, employment contract, and memos.
¹Technology Transfer Office is only a possible name of the department responsible for licensing the technology developed at a research institution. Office of Technology Commercialization and other names are used often; thus, one has to ensure correctness for a particular case when preparing the memo.