Intellectual property relates to original works of authorship, technology, products, processes, designs, plant varieties, goodwill and trademarks. Although intangible, the law recognises intellectual property to be just as much a form of property as land and housing — thus intellectual property can be sold, leased, damaged and trespassed upon.

Since intellectual property is intangible, it is important that its scope and ownership be clearly defined in order to enable the legal rights of the owner to be enforced. This is made possible with patent, design and trademark registrations, plant variety rights, copyright protection, and recognition of ownership.

It is an important principle that theses should be public documents. Requirements associated with intellectual property should not be allowed to restrict public access to theses without a strong case being made.

The intellectual property incorporated in a thesis may contain contributions from many sources and situations. Such contributions can include input from staff members, use of University resources and research undertaken by the candidate.  Part of the research may have been developed prior to enrolment for the degree programme and/or include research created in the premises of, or with resources of, a Crown Research Institute or company. In such situations, the University seeks to be fair to all parties and to set out the rights of each party in an agreement prior to collaborative research beginning.

University policy on intellectual property

The University's Intellectual Property and Copyright Policy with regard to intellectual property, its commercialisation and involvement of students in creating intellectual property, is set out in the Handbook on Research and Outside Professional Activities and is also available. The handbook is available to University of Waikato staff from the Faculty/School offices or from the Research & Enterprise Office.

A candidate's Chief Supervisor is responsible for identifying intellectual property. A candidate who knows or believes that he/she has created intellectual property should communicate this to their Chief Supervisor so that action can be taken. The Research & Enterprise Office should also be advised as soon as possible. 

Until a decision has been made on ownership and rights, the entire matter of intellectual property should remain confidential. This is done in order to protect the rights to ownership and benefits to be derived from that ownership.

Publication prior to the granting of a provisional patent application is likely to prevent patenting of any research result. Staff are encouraged to declare to the Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor, at the earliest opportunity, the development of a patentable discovery so that legal advice on the options available can be obtained.

Where a student or staff member brings to a project intellectual property of which he or she has already established ownership, that ownership must be disclosed to the Chief Supervisor, Chair of Department/Head of School and to the Research & Enterprise Office before a University project begins. An agreement for use of the intellectual property will then be negotiated with its owner.

Scholarship or funding from any source external to the University of Waikato will not be recognised in relation to intellectual property unless contractual arrangements have been entered into prior to the research commencing.

If an outside person or body provides intellectual property to a candidate for use in the candidate's university work (e.g. research to be reported in the thesis), that provision must be reported by the provider or candidate to the Research & Enterprise Office before that intellectual property is used. The University will then seek to establish an agreement with the provider for conditions of use.

Where intellectual property is created during the course of research carried out in preparation for presenting a thesis, it is normal practice for all contributors to be recognised as joint authors in resulting publications.

However, only people contributing to the inventive step of a patent application can be listed as inventors. Furthermore, on rare occasions, the content of a thesis can be commercially sensitive and the timing of publication can be critical. The Research & Enterprise Office should be informed so that suitable arrangements can be made for protection of intellectual property during examination and lodgement of the thesis in the University of Waikato library.