Student Patent Policy at Caltech and UC

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 13:14:11 -0800

In a discussion with Jim over guidance for his undergraduate 125b
project students doing DAV work, I argued that the Univeristy of
California logically owns code that students write in the pursuit of
degrees. In that, I was arguing by analogy to the Caltech Patent
Acknowledgemnt all incoming students are required to sign:
2. The Institute agrees that rights of all other inventions or computer
software made or written by me with the use of Institute facilities are
to be retained by me, except for computer software which is written in
connection with or used in the educational program of the Institute
(e.g., course work, homework, theses), for which the Institute shall
obtain an irrevocable royalty-free, nonexclusive license, with the
right to grant sublicenses, for any purpose whatsoever.

Which is, in turn, much like the one I signed for grad courses at MIT.

UC undergrads, though, are not routinely expected to sign the UC Policy.
I think this shows a lack of confidence, that the tens of thousands of
fine UC undergraduates are unlikely to be as inventive as Techers.
Nevertheless, the formal policy still dictates:
I acknowledge my obligation to assign inventions and patents that I
conceive or develop while employed by University or during the course of
my utilization of any University research facilities or any connection
with my use of gift, grant, or contract research funds received through
the University. I further acknowledge my obligation to promptly report
and fully disclose the conception and/or reduction to practice of
potentially patentable inventions to the Office of Technology Transfer
or authorized licensing office.

In that sense, Federal funds are like GPL'd copylefted code: it spreads
like a virus, infecting any activity it touches. While arguably the ICS
computer labs are not gifted qeuipment with a specific research
intention, the 125b DAV experiments are running on
DAV-related-research-funded servers and are arguably assisting in the
pursuit of Jim's own research. To wit, the following guidance:
Are students required to sign the new Patent Acknowledgment?

As with all prior versions of the Patent Policy, students generally are
not required to sign the Patent Acknowledgment. However, graduate and
undergraduate students are required to sign if they are also University
employees or if they participate in an extramurally funded research

This paragraph clearly sets the bar high enough to require paid
employment, which does not apply to these students. Thus, I am satisfied
that Jim is doing the right thing in giving them as much rope as they'd
like :-)



Rohit Khare -- UC Irvine -- 4K Associates -- +1-(626) 806-7574 --