Faculty Views of Undergraduate Intellectual Property Policies and Practices


Given that undergraduate engineering students are becoming more involved in research and entrepreneurial activities that can lead to the generation of intellectual property (IP), this study investigates faculty attitudes related to IP policies and practices associated with educating and guiding undergraduate students. We surveyed a sample of 143 faculty members from both engineering and entrepreneurship education to examine: (a) the extent and nature of faculty involvement in undergraduate IP; (b) issues confronting faculty as they relate to undergraduate IP; (c) ways to catalyze undergraduate involvement in the generation of IP; (d) indicators of success; (e) future changes; and (f) best practices. We found that the majority of faculty members who were involved in undergraduate IP perceived that unclear policies, a lack of information, and unclear ownership of inventions were the most significant obstacles when guiding and teaching students. Furthermore, unwritten policies, biased ownership of information toward universities, lack of legal assistance for undergraduate students placed undergraduate students in a gray area where legal policies were not sufficient. Faculty who had previously guided students through the patent process reported greater concerns about teaching students the values and the principles of protecting intellectual property than those who did not. In terms of the role universities should play in enhancing undergraduate IP generation, most participants agreed that universities should educate students about IP protection (87%) and entrepreneurship (71%). The three most highly rated success indicators in educating undergraduate IP development were the increasing number of students involved in real world innovation and invention and entrepreneurial activities and enhancing student involvement with industry. When asked how universities could mitigate issues related to student IP, six themes emerged from participants’ open-ended responses, including: university taking no claim on student IP; early education and training about intellectual property issues; consulting assistance from TTO; creation of entrepreneurial culture or ecosystem; and access to low cost legal advice. Faculty members surveyed had strong views about where potential problems occur, and fewer recommendations on what resources should be provided. From the data, it is clear that there is still much to be accomplished to clarify the extent to which universities should be involved in managing undergraduate intellectual property. With further research and understanding, best practices for undergraduate IP generation can be applied to avoid further IP challenges for faculty, students, and academic institutions. 




Yi, S. & Duval-Couetil, N. (2020, June). Faculty Views of Undergraduate Intellectual Property Policies and Practices. American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference. (Division Best Research Paper).




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