Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

A School’s Ulterior Motive

Grueling negotiations, signing legal documents and issuing shares. Common practice for multinational corporations and students of engineering.

When a student makes a discovery, is the invention property of the inventor or the university?

Common sense says the person who did all the work. The Dutch laws of intellectual property say…

Little.

So when a university sends it legal cronies to claim a student’s property rights, the young inventors don’t know what to do.

Technical University Delft claims students owns the rights to their invention, if the creation was made indepently from all school interference.

So if a teacher gives any pointers, or lends the student any instruments—which includes the use of a library computer—the invention belongs to the university.

Which offers little guidance, because inventions are rarely done in a vacuum.

Even when you’re positive you own all the rights to your gadget, you must be able to prove it in court. Which is why we have patents.

The trouble with a patent, however, is that they’re expensive. Especially for a student.

Many universities offer to pay the patent in exchange for a share in the student’s future company. Sometimes demanding as much as 40% of the young pioneer’s business.

And without any legal know-how, the school’s squad of lawyers easily pressure the inexperienced innovators into giving up a big chunk of their company.

The legal minds of TU Eindhoven take it a step further. 

If you want to enroll into TU Eindhoven, you must agree to surrender the rights to all the discoveries you make as a student. Although the school also promises it will return you your property rights, if you can show your work was done unaided.

Although that’s not written down in black and white.

The problem with all the legal ambiguity, is that the judicial bickering between school and student can take a long time. Sometimes years.

Which stops a graduate from starting her business and also drains her bankaccount. Lawyers don’t come cheap.

Although schools exist to prepare its students for a successful career, the academic instutions seem more concerned with their wallets.

Ethics aside, students enroll into a university thinking the instution has their interests at heart. Only to get blindsided by the school’s ulterior motive.

Which is no way to start your adult life.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach