Copyright Reminder

Managing intellectual property across teams

Questions about management of copyright in research and pedagogical output are common, particularly in situations where multiple Stanford workgroups participate in the project.  Where you are collaborating with other individuals or another unit, it is important to determine in advance how rights to the output of the research project will be managed. 

Stanford’s copyright policy and Stanford’s Tangible Research Property policy, which includes software, are important resources as you determine the direction your project will take.  

Stanford’s copyright policy defines who owns copyright at Stanford for Stanford related projects.  The Dean of Research is authorized to make decisions regarding copyright ownership, including whether the work is owned by an individual author (or authors), by the university or under some combination of ownership.  The Dean of Research will also arbitrate any disputes that arise within project teams.

In order to assist the Dean of Research, however, it is best to commit expectations of copyright ownership in writing.  When cross-departmental teams undertake projects, it is best to have a discussion up front to clarify how copyright, patents, and other IP will be managed and which teams will retain and manage rights for all portions of the project.  Be sure to consider not only publications arising from the project, but also data sets, software, websites, user interfaces, specifications, codebooks and other outputs.  It is acceptable for faculty to hire graduate students, students or post-docs to provide research assistance without an expectation that these individuals will have an ownership interest in the final written output.  It is, however, best for faculty to make that clear to researchers at the time of hire to avoid confusion.  Similarly, in circumstances in which university funding is significant, the University likely has ownership interests and if this result is not the expected outcome, it is best to confer with the Dean of Research at the outset of a project.