Intellectual Property

Students, like faculty and staff, have an interest in their intellectual property (IP) rights to their scholarship and creative work. The following basic definitions from the college’s IP policy are included for reference.

“Scholarly work” created by faculty or students is IP and is normally owned by the creator(s). Scholarly work is defined broadly to include pedagogical, literary, scientific and other creative work developed by faculty members and/or students (or staff members acting outside the scope of their employment). This includes 1) work related to scholarship, such as books, journal articles, inventions, advances, discoveries, software, creative works, artistic works in any medium (including, but not limited to, musical composition, choreography, visual art, scriptwriting), videos and photographs, and 2) work related to teaching, such as textbooks, lecture notes and other course notes (whether in summary or verbatim form, whether privately held by the faculty member or distributed to the class, whether paper or electronic), problem sets, syllabi, training materials, and Web sites for classes. This means that the vast majority of scholarly work generated by faculty and/or students is IP that is owned exclusively by the creator(s). Exceptions may arise in circumstances involving 1) identity interest, 2) functional interest, or 3) exceptional use of college resources.

Identity Interest. The college has an “identity interest” in works that are integral to, and reflect more directly on, the identity of the college than on the identity of the individual(s) who create them. For example, it has an identity interest in items disseminated by and for the college, such as various college catalogs, institutional web pages, alumni bulletins, admissions brochures, and fundraising materials. An identity interest also occurs when there is a prominent use of the college’s name, or of any image, trademark or logo of the college (see the college’s communications web page for more information). Simply identifying the author of a work as a Bates student would not be considered prominent use of the college’s name.

Functional Interest. The college has a “functional interest” in works that are used to enhance the effective functioning and coordination of ongoing operations of the college, or in which the college has a contractual or legal obligation. For example, the college has a functional interest in IP created with Federal or other outside funds which carry an obligation that the college retain certain IP rights or assign them to another party outside the college. Certain collaborative agreements also require the college to negotiate IP rights with other entities, creating a functional interest. If the college has a functional interest, the IP is owned by the college.

Exceptional Use of College Resources. “Exceptional use of college resources” for faculty or student work means that the college has provided funding, facilities, or staff support of a degree or nature not typically made available. Ordinary use of desktop computers or the college library, routine support from the college’s Information and Library Services (ILS) staff, or use of college office space does not constitute exceptional use of college resources. In addition, the college’s provision of standard labs and studios, funding of sabbatical leaves, and funding provided to support scholarly work are typically not considered to be exceptional use of college resources.

Students who are employed by the college are subject to IP policies for staff. The college owns all rights to IP created by student employees within the scope or course of their employment unless the student is employed in a faculty-directed project leading to scholarly work, in which case the faculty member owns the student-created IP. Faculty members are expected to acknowledge assistance or co-authorship when appropriate.

Many grants and contracts from government agencies or private sponsors contain provisions governing intellectual property and/or other rights to the property which obligate the grantee (the college) in some way. In such cases, the college has a functional interest in the IP and owns all property rights associated with the IP. The Office of External Grants will assure that IP restrictions are accounted for in grant application and administrative processes associated with it.

If you believe that through your scholarly work you have created a new patentable invention in which the College might have a functional interest, please contact Shonna Humphrey in the Office of External Grants (207-786-6243, about submitting an invention disclosure. If you submit an invention disclosure, the College will notify you in a timely fashion whether it intends to provide practical and financial assistance with patenting the invention in order to exercise its IP rights.

If you have concerns about proper authorship credit on scholarly work, please contact the Research Integrity Officer (Associate Dean Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, 207-786-6472,

For full details of the College’s IP Policy, please see pages 19-24 of the Employee Handbook.