Jump to Content

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is the result of an individual's intellectual endeavours, most commonly in the forms of literary or artistic works, inventions, trade/commercial secrets or industrial designs.  

IP is capable of being protected (eg by copyright, patents, registered design) so that the owner retains exclusive rights to exploit the IP and generate income. Please read the information below regarding your IP during your research degree candidature.


Research Degree Student Participation/IP Agreements

Generally a university student will own the IP that they create. However, research degree student IP is often the product of the interaction of multiple parties (student, supervisor, other members of a research team) or is created as part of a project that is sponsored or funded by an industry partner, granting agency or other external organisation. 

Students also own the copyright in their thesis. Where a thesis contains IP that is the subject of a Student Project Participation Agreement, the University has a licence to use the content of the thesis for the University's purposes, including commercialisation and the filing of patent applications. Where the student's thesis contains University IP or other confidential information, the University may require that publication be limited, restricted or delayed as appropriate.

IP criteria

To protect the rights of all parties, the University requires research degree students to assign their IP to the University where they are engaged in research which:

  • has the potential to result in outcomes of potential commercial interest OR
  • involves the use of existing background University IP OR
  • is subject to a pre-existing agreements with third parties OR
  • is undertaken in collaboration with others.

If any of these criteria apply to you, talk to your supervisor about completing and signing an HDR [higher degree by research] Student Project Participation Agreement*.

IP benefits

The assignment of your IP to the University will benefit you, as IP is better protected and exploited through the resources available to the University.

You will share in the proceeds of any returns arising from the exploitation of IP as outlined in the University activities - Intellectual Property: Ownership and Management Policy (staff and student access).

Statement of Agreement and IP

The Statement of Agreement (PDF 169 KB) will trigger initial discussions about IP between you and your supervisors. If these discussions reveal that your intended research meets or is likely to meet any of the criteria mentioned above, the HDR Student Project Participation Agreement* must be completed and signed. By signing you are agreeing:

  • that all intellectual property produced in the course of the project will be owned by the University
  • to keep all confidential information received or produced by the student confidential unless authorised otherwise
  • to report any intellectual property that may be considered commercialisable to your supervisor immediately (who is then responsible to report the intellectual property to UniSA Ventures Pty Ltd, (UniSA's commercialisation company).

Nothing in this agreement hinders your right to have your thesis examined (provided that appropriate arrangements are made when confidential information is used).

In return, the University agrees to allow you to participate in the research project and to share any returns from the commercialisation of intellectual property with you in accordance with University policy.


Confidential information

While undertaking your research, you may become privy to confidential information:

  • of the University
  • provided by an external organisation (eg if the project is undertaken in collaboration with an industry partner).

An HDR Student Project Participation Agreement will normally also contain clauses requiring you to maintain confidentiality of such information. Otherwise, the University or the external organisation may require you to enter into a separate confidentiality agreement.

Note: the Student Project Participation Agreement form is staff access only -you will need to access it with your supervisor.

Regardless of whether a written agreement is entered into, you may still be bound by obligations of confidentiality if you obtain information which you are aware is confidential and may not be disclosed.

You may also develop confidential information during the course of your research. Where confidential information is developed as part of a project specifically run by the University or involving an external organisation, you should not reveal such information without first consulting your supervisor. Revealing such information may jeopardise chances of obtaining a patent or may be in breach of confidentiality obligations towards the University or external organisation.

Your thesis and publications

If your thesis contains confidential information, you will still be entitled to submit your thesis for examination. However, the University may require that public access to the thesis be restricted for a period of time (generally up to 2 years).

If you wish to submit a publication which contains confidential information of the University or an external organisation, such a publication will be subject to the University or organisation's approval.


Find out more