Re: Student Patent Policy at Caltech and UC

Kragen Sitaker (
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 17:31:42 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 12 Jan 1999, Joe Touch wrote:
> I would be surprised if an employee, as a function
> of their job, developed code on an employer's equipment,
> and it were NOT considered "property of the employer."

The work-for-hire doctrine for copyright gives employers copyright on
things their employees produce as part of their job duties, just as you
say. I'm not familiar with the patent-law situation.

> That employer-employee relationship is clearly transitive,
> and has been in the past. So, if you're entering into
> a contract with a Univ, and they entered into a contract
> with the US Govt, then they have reasonably transferred their
> rights of ownership to the US Govt.

This is not correct within the work-for-hire doctrine; a university
cannot be an employee, only a contractor. Contractors don't fall under
the work-for-hire doctrine; copyrights on work done by a contractor are
owned by the contractor, not their client, absent other WRITTEN
contractual arrangements.

Again, I know nothing about the patent situation.

> Signing a patent agreement isn't necessarily required
> for any of this to take effect. Cashing a check is sufficient.

I'd be interested to hear where you studied patent law.

<>       Kragen Sitaker     <>
Computers are the tools of the devil. It is as simple as that. There is no
monotheism strong enough that it cannot be shaken by Unix or any Microsoft
product. The devil is real. He lives inside C programs. --