So I was wondering. Most IP policies at Universities state that you must work on inventions, software, etc. on your own time in order to keep your rights to it. Most also say that you can't use University facilities in the process. But if you live in student housing, wouldn't this count as a "University facility." So wouldn't it technically be impossible to patent something while keeping your rights?

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    Not a lawyer, but you lease residential housing. The university still owns it, but so long as you follow the agreements in the contract, I don't see why they can have any bounding on work you do in the room, especially when you're doing it on your own computer.
    – Compass
    Dec 1, 2014 at 15:16
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    If there's a university in the world that has actually claimed ownership of a student's invention on the basis of them living in university housing, or even announced that it might do so, I'll eat my hat. Dec 2, 2014 at 5:17
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    The only real answer is to read the specific IP agreement you sign with your university, or have a lawyer read it for you. That said, I agree with Nate Eldredge that it is extremely unlikely that any university would even attempt to create such an arrangement, let alone succeed in enforcing it.
    – BrenBarn
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:57

2 Answers 2


University IP policies generally have a separate category for intellectual property created using resources "usually and customarily provided" by the university. In every policy I've ever seen, even if the university generally retains ownership of IP created using university facilities, this excludes the above category (which would certainly include standard university housing).

For example, at the University of Illinois:

Traditional academic copyrightable works created using university resources usually and customarily provided are owned by the creators. Such works need not be licensed to the University.

When determining ownership and license rights in copyrightable works, "University resources usually and customarily provided" includes office space, library facilities, ordinary access to computers and networks, or salary.

At the University of Arkansas:

Creator is entitled to copyright ownership and right to revenues subject to compliance with conflict of interest and commitment policies.

This category applies when the faculty or staff member constructs the materials using nothing more than university resources usually and customarily provided. These include but may not be limited to office space, library facilities, ordinary access to computers and networks, faculty development workshops, or salary.

The author owns the copyright and is entitled to receive all revenues for commercialization, subject to the conflict of interest and commitment policies.

An alternative terminology for the same concept is to distinguish between "substantial" and non-substantial use of resources. For example, at Minnesota State:

Substantial Use of Resources. Substantial use exists when resources are provided beyond the normal professional, technology, and technical support supplied by the college, university, and/or system office to an individual or individuals for development of a project or program.

Or at CMU:

Substantial use of university facilities means extensive unreimbursed use of major university laboratory, studio or computational facilities, or human resources. The use of these facilities must be important to the creation of the intellectual property; merely incidental use of a facility does not constitute substantial use, nor does extensive use of a facility commonly available to all faculty or professional staff (such as libraries and offices), nor does extensive use of a specialized facility for routine tasks.


First of all, how should be defined "University facility" in this context? I don't think that housing would make part of the definition. They must consider labs, machines and so on. Therefore, I believe that it is possible to patent something and still hold the intellectual property.

Anyhow, you should read carefully the IP policies at your university and find out what they actually call "university facility"

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    I am not a lawyer, so I don't know the answer of this question. But, let me ask you this: does the broad band or wifi counted as "university facility"?
    – Nobody
    Dec 2, 2014 at 4:23
  • It's not a easy question to answer since every university may define "facility" in a different way. In my personal opinion: it shouldn't count as "university facility". Dec 2, 2014 at 11:32

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