As a student entrepreneur, Intellectual Property is almost certainly something you will have to consider while developing your business. IP may be relevant in several ways when you have a start-up business, whether it is because you have invented something and want to prevent others from duplicating it, you have created a unique name and logo for your business, or one of several other reasons. Determining what forms of IP may be relevant to your business and navigating how to protect these assets can be challenging. As a student at the University of Windsor, this challenge can often become even more layered because the University does not have a policy in place regarding ownership of IP created by students. This means that students are often left to their own devices to determine who may have a claim in ownership over their IP.
Over the summer, I have been working to develop an IP and Business Law guide for student entrepreneurs. The main purpose of the guide will be to serve as a roadmap to help student entrepreneurs understand the steps they need to take to protect their IP and direct them to resources that can help them take these steps. The guide will address several key elements relevant to start-up businesses and IP. One of these elements will be how to identify what types of IP are relevant to your business. IP includes creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, and names and images used in commerce. Depending on your business, patent, trademark, copyright law, or a combination of these can be used to protect your IP. Different legislation in Canada, such as the Patent Act and the Copyright Act provide requirements for IP to be protected under the law. For example, the Patent Act sets out categories that an invention must fall under to be within its scope and may refuse to issue a patent if public disclosure of the invention has occurred within a certain period.
Determining who may have ownership or rights in your IP will make up a significant portion of the guide. When an entrepreneur has developed IP, there are certain relationships and events that may result in other individuals or organizations having rights in that IP. There are certain things that every entrepreneur should keep in mind. For instance, it is important to determine if you have developed an idea within the scope of your employment because the Copyright Act sets out that a copyright protected work created by an employee in the scope of their employment is generally owned by their employer.
As a student entrepreneur, ownership in IP can become more complicated depending on the capacity in which you have developed your business. You may be working with other individuals or organizations who have entered agreements with provisions that could affect ownership of your work. For example, if you are developing an invention as a student researcher under the supervision of a professor who is receiving a grant, any research agreement the professor is part of needs to be considered. Alternatively, if you are working independently in a campus research lab, you need to consider any ramifications of possible industry partnerships the lab may be part of.
These are just a few examples of possible situations that could affect your business and must be considered since the University does not have a policy in place which encompasses these issues for students. It is important to begin to think of these things early on to avoid issues throughout the commercialization process. As a third-year law student, developing this guide has been both
rewarding and challenging. My goal while working with the EPICentre team is to develop a comprehensive and organized guide that will make it as seamless as possible for student entrepreneurs at the University of Windsor to protect their IP.