I'm a part time lecturer in a university and conducted a research independently and I'm about to publish the result. I'm concerned about assigning the affiliation to the university. I'm afraid that I give them the power to limit my full rights over the paper. It's a paper with innovative ideas and I will continue to work on the ideas presented in this paper. I want to know exactly what the affiliated university can claim for if they want to? Can they claim for ideas in the paper as intellectual property of university?

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    What does your contract with the university or their handbook of operating procedures say? The affiliation you put on the paper has virtually nothing to do with it. – Bill Barth Apr 15 '15 at 20:42
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    Did you work on the research on campus, using University resources (like computers, the library, laboratories, etc.)? – Joe Apr 16 '15 at 2:36
  • You should probably give more attention to the publication agreement that you sign with the publisher if you are, indeed, wanting to maintain "full rights" over the paper. – Brian P Apr 17 '15 at 4:33
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    What does "about to publish" mean? How have you established that your ideas are innovative and to the point that a university will want to claim ideas? Does the university have a history of this type of action? – Brian P Apr 17 '15 at 4:38
  • I didn't use any university resources at all. my work is in the field of applied mathematics. Reviewers confirmed that the paper contains novel ideas and solve some serious problems. Also, I have a teaching contract with the university. nothing about research or publishing has been signed. – Amin Apr 17 '15 at 5:46

The question is a legal one, so it would depend on what legal system you're subject to. Ideas per se cannot be legally owned, but via patent and copyright you can own the expression of ideas. With a patent, there is a legal process that you need to go through, to gain legal ownership over, say, a method of converting speech to text. If that's the case, you better get on filing right now. In the case of copyright, you basically don't have to do anything in the US, except if you need to sue for infringement and plan to go for statutory damages, then you need to register the work (also, registration is prima facie evidence of ownership of the work). But, you will have a copyright transfer or licensing agreement with the publishing venue. If the journal requires a transfer, you don't own the work anymore.

And, at any rate, your university can't claim ownership of the work, unless it can prove that this was a work for hire. The closest it could come would be if there is a condition in your employment agreement saying that anything you create is their property, then they could fire you and maybe sue you for not assigning the copyright to them. I am not a lawyer, but I seriously doubt that any clause that says something broad like "anything that you create is automatically our property" would be upheld in court. They can forbid you from claiming an affiliation, but you listing an affiliation does not create any property right for the university.

  • My work is not a work for hire for sure and I have teaching contract only. before I decided to publish my work I had called World Intellectual Property Organization and they told me that mathematical methods can not be granted a patent. Also, the methods I provide in my work can be implemented in engineering and mathematical software. reviewers confirmed that the paper contains novel ideas and solved some troublesome problems – Amin Apr 17 '15 at 5:59

@user6726 may have a different opinion, but at least in the US, the intellectual property for everything you do as part of your job rests with your employer. Whether you list the employer or not on your paper has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Whether your employer will ultimately choose to enforce their ownership and share proceeds with you is of course a different matter. If you patent the idea, for example, you probably want a large institution to work with you on the paperwork, the marketing, the contracting, etc. You would rather quickly be out several $10,000 of your own money if you tried to commercialize things yourself. So there is a benefit to having your employer do these things for you. Of course, in reality, very few ideas produced at universities actually bring in even small amounts of money through commercialization.

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    My difference of opinion hinges on what constitutes a "work for hire". If he was hired to write paper X, then it's a work for hire. If he's hired to teach, it's plainly not a work for hire. If he's hired to teach and do research, then you have to separate the aspects of research and specifically written output that are covered by he contract, vs. not covered. "Work for hire" requires an explicit agreement. – user6726 Apr 15 '15 at 22:07
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    It's exactly how it works in the US, as spelled out in 17 USC 101, especially the definition " a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment". A work prepared independently, as in this case, is not a "work for hire". – user6726 Apr 15 '15 at 23:41
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    If an employment contract says that, sure. An employer does not get to re-write the terms of a contract ad libitum. My contract never said anything vaguely like that. Also, the burden would be on the employer to show that the work was done during work hours and using university facilities (they are making the claim, so they have to provide the proof). – user6726 Apr 16 '15 at 2:24
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    Your contract will (explicitly or implicitly) bind you to your employer's rules and regulations. Here's a link to my university's IP policy: policies.tamus.edu/17-01.pdf – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 16 '15 at 3:15
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    For example, 2.1.2 states "the system does not claim copyright to pedagogical, scholarly or artistic works, regardless of their form of expression, unless required by a funding or research contract". – user6726 Apr 16 '15 at 4:49

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