Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is the ownership of created ideas, programs and documents (basically any product of the mind). 

Copyright law gives you the right to use, transfer, sell, copy or publish anything you create.

IP Determined

  • As a Postgraduate student, you own all the IP created by you unless:
  • There is an agreement to assign your IP to UNSW (or to another third party)
  • The IP was developed in conjunction with UNSW staff (so you are, in fact, a co-creator).

You will likely be asked to sign an IP agreement transferring your rights if creation involves the use of UNSW resource (funding, facilities, equipment or staff) or if your research is funded by an industry sponsor.

The buddy system

Discovering anything of significance means you'll need a partner to develop, market and exploit the discovery. This will also mean you'll have a partner defending your interests against rival claimants, and you will be entitled to a share of the commercial value.

Yours, mine or ours?

UNSW cannot assert ownership over something that was created before you were a student, but if you don't tell anyone until it is too late it will be treated as university owned IP. If you apply for a PHD bringing IP with you, you need to advise the DVC(R) within 30 days of enrolment.


PG research goes hand in hand with generating and inventing new ideas and writing and publishing journal articles. But research is collaborative (you probably have a supervisor, co-supervisor and joint supervisor) and group work can get messy.

'Authors' must have made substantial intellectual contributions to:

  • Conception and design
  • Analysis and interpretation of data
  • Drafting or revising an article (in a way that adds to its interpretation)

If you are writing a paper for a journal, you need to make sure you get the credit you deserve. Discuss authorship with your supervisor early on and have a signed authorship agreement in place (eg who the authors of any published works arising from the research are, and in what order names will be listed). To avoid problems, all authors must sign a Statement of Authorship prior to any work being published.

Authorship gives certain rights and an article cannot be published unless all authors agree on the final version. If there is no agreement, it may have to be re-written and some parts removed or, in a worst case scenario, not published at all. This also means that if your supervisor decides to publish an article based on your research, you should be listed as an author and have approval rights before print.


Graduate Research School

UNSW Policy

Need more information?

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