A New Patent Policy to Encourage Student Innovation

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Yale University has revised its Student Patent Policy to recognize and better encourage student innovation. The new policy makes it clear that students retain the rights to their inventions except under very specific circumstances, including: inventions made under a sponsored research agreement; inventions made within faculty-supervised graduate thesis or dissertation work; inventions made as part of contract work for the university; or inventions made using significant University resources. The policy specifies that “significant University resources” does not include participation in a course, minimal use of Yale funds or the use of facilities like student shops or libraries.

“We’re hoping the new policy will help alleviate any anxiety that students may have about their ability to create new inventions with some degree of faculty involvement, to work on them at University facilities and retain ownership,” says Jon Soderstrom, Managing Director of the Office of Cooperative Research which facilitates patents at Yale.

Several courses in engineering and computer science at the University are conducive to students creating intellectual property, and students may also invent new products or technologies through student clubs like HackYale, Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association and the Yale International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. And thousands of students engage in projects at the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design each year. In many cases, under the new policy, students would own these inventions. 

“We expect that innovative students will seek expertise and advice from faculty members,” says Soderstrom. “Under the new policy, that kind of support wouldn’t deprive the students of their rights to their inventions.  ”

The decision to overhaul the Student Patent Policy followed a request made in February 2014 by faculty members and students from the Department of Computer Science and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They wrote to the chair of the Committee on Cooperative Research to express their concern that the existing Student Patent Policy might stifle innovation by making excessive claims to student intellectual property.

The Committee reviewed the policy at peer institutions like MIT and Stanford, and recommended that Yale adopt more welcoming language that clearly indicates what constitutes faculty oversight and significant use of University resources.

Students with any questions related to the new patent policy are encouraged to contact OCR online or by phone at (203) 436-8096. Questions may also be emailed to OCR@yale.edu.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Office of Cooperative Research, (203) 804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu