The result of research is the generation of new knowledge. The "ownership" of that new knowledge, especially when it is knowledge with commercial implications and/or results in scholarly publications, is a sensitive issue. The question of ownership in the context of the student-supervisor relationship is often complicated by the close collaboration between supervisor(s) and student during the course of the research. It is further complicated by the fact that the University and possibly an outside agency provide resources (e.g. space, library, equipment, supplies) in support of the research.

At Simon Fraser University, unlike many other universities, the person (student, staff or faculty member) who generates patentable new knowledge is the owner of that knowledge; the University makes no claim on it, unless the University is asked to help with the patenting of the idea [see Policy R30.02]. The main federal and provincial agencies which support university research through research grants (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR and SCBC) also make no claims on the results. On the other hand, copyrightable new knowledge (e.g. books and software) is usually owned jointly by the author and the University; consult Policy R30.01.

Research contracts with government agencies or private companies often stipulate that the rights to commercial exploitation of a discovery belong in full or in part to the sponsoring agency. Because it is University policy that the rights to a patentable discovery belong to the discoverer(s), the University will approve contracts containing such stipulations, as long as they do not restrict the ultimate publication of the results (see Graduate General Regulation 1.11.3).

Please see R30.03: Intellectual Property Policy for full details.

Graduate Students and Intellectual Property

The question which is most likely to cause difficulty is the calculation of the degrees of "ownership" held by the student and by the supervisor(s) who are involved in the research. There are no University regulations governing this area and research contracts normally do not differentiate among the University researchers as to which of them retain the rights not claimed by the sponsoring agency.

It is therefore very important that students and their supervisors reach agreement, in advance, on the principles under which the "ownership" of patent and license rights and the authorship of resultant publications will be decided. Because of the uncertainties intrinsic to research, it is often not possible to agree in advance on the rights to specific discoveries.

There is very wide variation among the disciplines in the style and nature of supervision and in the degree of involvement of the supervisor(s) in the research. Therefore, it is not possible to provide further guidance that would be generally useful; some departments have their own policies in this area and students should consult the graduate program chair.