Intellectual Property Rights of the System, Colleges and Universities

Board Policy 3.26 continues the "prevailing academic practice to treat the faculty member as the copyright owner of works that are created independently and at the faculty member's own initiative for traditional academic purposes."

The policy recognizes that faculty members own intellectual property rights in certain scholarly works, encoded works, and personal works, and identifies several instances where a faculty member's basic ownership rights may be modified by an agreement or other factors. This also holds true for staff and students. Ownership of rights by the system, colleges and universities are most often clarified through various agreements.

Sponsorship Agreements

A sponsorship agreement is a written agreement between a sponsor and a college, university, and/or the system office and may include other parties, such as the creator of the work. (Board Policy 3.26, Part 3, Subpart P) A sponsor is a person, organization, or governmental entity, other than the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, that provides funding, equipment, or other support so that a specified project may be carried out (Board Policy 3.26, Part 3, Subpart O). Sponsorship agreements routinely take the form of college or university contracts with private sector companies to conduct research on behalf of the company at the college's or university's research facilities.

Ownership of intellectual property rights in a work created under a sponsorship agreement is determined by the terms of the agreement. If the sponsorship agreement is silent on this issue, property rights, ownership is determined by applicable law pursuant to Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart B.1.


The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and its colleges and universities may participate in projects with persons and organizations to meet identified student, citizen, community and industry needs. For example, colleges and universities may partner with other institutions to offer joint degree programs or they may partner with community businesses to provide internship and employment opportunities for students. Ownership of intellectual property rights arising from collaboration or partnership shall be addressed pursuant to this policy Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart B.2. -As with sponsorship agreements, the use of a formal collaboration/partnership agreement delineating each party's rights and responsibilities properly manages each party's expectations and addresses ownership rights to any intellectual property that is created.

Equity Distributions

In any instance where an agreement is executed with an individual, corporation or other entity for economic gain using intellectual property owned by the system, college or university, an equitable distribution is entitled by the system, college or university. The proceeds of the equitable distribution shall be shared among the creators of the intellectual property as determined by Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart B.3.

For example, if an agricultural college develops and patents a new and improved method of poultry processing, the college may agree to license the use of that processing method to a commercial food processing company. In exchange for allowing company to use the processing method, the company would pay the college licensing fees or royalties. The college may impose certain restrictions on the use of the poultry process such as limiting the length of time the company may use the process. It's essential the parties (the college and any interested company) negotiate terms up front and formalize their agreement in a written contract.

Special Commissions

Intellectual property rights to a work specially ordered or commissioned by the system, college or university from a faculty member, professional staff, or other employee (including a student employee) and identified as a specially commissioned work or "work for hire" at the time the work was commissioned, shall belong to the system, college or university. A written agreement for creation of the specially commissioned work shall be created pursuant to Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart B.4. The use of a written agreement sets these work arrangements apart from work otherwise performed by faculty members in the regular course and scope of their employment such as drafting lesson plans, presenting lectures, meeting with students during office hours, attending faculty meetings, etc.

Use of Substantial College or University Resources

In the event a college or university provides substantial resources to a faculty member or professional staff member for creation of a work and the work was not an institutional work created under a sponsorship agreement, individual agreement, or special commission agreement, the institution and the creator shall own the intellectual property rights jointly in proportion to the respective contributions made. Substantial circumstances exist when resources provided are beyond the normal support services extended to individuals for development of work products. (Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart B.5). Ownership issues should be clarified before work begins so there is no confusion in the future about the ownership and use of the intellectual property created.

Other Modifications

Collective Bargaining Agreement

In the event the provisions of Board Policy 3.26 and the provisions of any effective collective bargaining agreement conflict, the collective bargaining agreement shall take precedence. (Board Policy 3.26, Part 4, Subpart C.1)

Jointly Created Work

Ownership of jointly created works shall be determined by separately assessing which of the above categories applies to each creator, respectively, and then determining whether the parties had entered into an agreement regarding ownership, rights and use. Whenever two or more creators work together, questions regarding joint ownership arise. For example, if a student assisted a faculty member with a project, was the student compensated for his or her efforts (a "work for hire" arrangement) or was it more of a collaborative effort (which would arguably make the student a joint author)? If a team of faculty members works together to create an online "toolbox" for incoming college freshmen to be posted on the college web site, may individual members of the team use the portions they created in other projects or venues? May the college market and license the use of the toolbox to other colleges? Whenever possible, creators working jointly should discuss and decide these issues up front and formalize them in a written agreement.

System College or University Name

Intellectual property rights associated with the identities of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, its colleges and universities, logo and other indices of identity belong to the respective entity. Such rights may be licensed pursuant to reasonable terms and conditions approved by the Chancellor, presidents or their designees, respectively. (Board Policy 3.26, Part 4 Subpart C.4)