As a graduate student, I'm involved in an industry-sponsored project in which they provide us with a large dataset (the only source of data that we have) and money, but no guidance, as they have no clue about our work. In the draft of the agreement between our university and the company they wanted full ownership of any code, algorithm, methodology or design produced as a part of this project. In addition, they wanted the right to review, edit and approve any publication based on this project or any subsequent activities performed during this project.

I just wonder whether this is a normal practice or whether they want too much!

  • What field are you in?
    – ff524
    Aug 21, 2015 at 22:53
  • @ff524 Computer Science - Machine Learning
    – MLiyooo
    Aug 21, 2015 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


I would consider this to be generally a rather extreme (and perhaps inappropriate) contract for a university to sign, particularly if graduate students are going to be asked to work on the project.

My key reasons for concern are:

  1. Graduate students need to be able to publish their work openly in order to advance their careers. An open-ended clause like this could readily become a "gag order" that prevents any publication. Restrictions, particularly regarding the use of confidential data, may be reasonable in an academia contract. Such restrictions, however, should have a precise and clearly delineated boundary, and it sounds like this one does not.
  2. A contract that says "the sponsor gets all the IP" is rare even for companies doing contract research. More typically, at least some of the IP will be reserved to the inventors, while the sponsor will be given some sort of expansive license to the IP.

This sounds like a company that doesn't want to pay the cost of contract R&D and that is instead trying to inappropriately exploit graduate students as cheap labor. I would strongly suggest pushing back to ensure appropriate education of graduate students and to more equitably divide IP.

  • 1
    Do you have any any source supporting such statement. Having that can help us fight easier for better deal.
    – MLiyooo
    Aug 22, 2015 at 4:40
  • @MachineLearningWorld I do not have a citable source: this is based on my experience as a researcher, both in academia and industry, who has both been involved in a number of research IP negotiations in a number of different capacities and also on what I have heard in discussions with numerous colleagues in both academia and industry.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 22, 2015 at 7:07

Not at all uncommon. The school is essentially acting as a paid contractor -- school gets the funding and the project to play with and possibly some equipment and unpublished results to start with, company gets the patents or other intellectual property. Both feel they're getting a good deal, or they wouldn't have signed this contract.

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