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  1. #1
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    Jun 2014
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    Default Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    I have been working on a health related project since 2010. Tons of documentation, prototypes, testers, etc. I recently went back to school part-time to switch fields, and thought adding research would help. I managed to convince a professor, who had access to some helpful data, to let me continue my personal project with the new data, in exchange for having a reference later in the future field. All of the work, and ideas have been mine, although he has been helpful in reminding me to move forward and has had a few connections at the school to bounce ideas off of.

    This brings me to the present. In a month I will be presenting the fruits of this research. And although the results are not spectacular (yet), he proposed off-handedly that "we" should work on monetizing it afterwards.

    I'll repeat, he knows full well that I was already working in that direction before I even met him (I already have working phone applications, and have bought domains). And have at no time suggested that I would bring him aboard afterwards. I don't want to alienate him, as I would like to have a good reference for later, but I also don't want to just let this sit and him come after me years later if I do make money off of the research.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    372

    Default Re: Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    Many Universities have policies in place concerning the ownership of research projects. You need to find those policies. Was your project graded in some fashion or was it a private arrangement between you and the professor? If it was a private arrangement, how were you paying the professor? Remember, no one works for free.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    10

    Default Re: Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    This was a private arrangement. I came to him looking for a project. Then changed my mind when I found what that there was data I could used to extend my personal research project. And the only "payment" was that I'm going to allow him to be second author on any papers. (none published so far).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    372

    Default Re: Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    So you came to him looking for a project. Why? This makes it sound like an honors thesis or an independent study. Something related to school. To whom will you be presenting the fruits of your research?
    Assuming that you are correct that this was not a University course or project then no one works for free. Something smells fishy. Have you guys written any papers, submitted them, et c.. Sure publishing is important to an academic but you haven't delivered. I'm not surprised the the professor is looking for a reward for his work. If you're not his grad student then he's not paid to talk to you.
    Has the professor signed a confidentiality agreement? What will you do if he brings your idea to market or sells it?
    It may be wise to make him a partner in your planned business. Maybe he'll have money to launch your business. But don't let this sit. Get advice from a bunch of people, think about it and then deal with the professor.
    Honestly I can't foresee how a judge would decide your possible case. A good lawyer could make powerful arguments on either side.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    10

    Default Re: Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    Nothing fishy, just maybe naivety on my part.

    I came looking to him because I want credentials in the field I plan to move to (so a new degree plus a paper or two with my name on them when it comes to apply again). This is independent study, and I'm not his student, I just happened to be taking courses at the same university, and he had projects he wanted to see to completion. The original projects had nothing to do with my personal research, but when they didn't start bearing fruit, I realized that some of the data could be used to shore-up some gaps in my own research. I honestly wasn't thinking about the long-term ramifications at that point, just that I needed a project to publish on, and the original ones were dead ends.

    I haven't published any of this yet. And, to be quite honest, if I dropped off the planet, he would have no way to replicate my research, as I've kept my status meetings on the slightly opaque side.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "reward for his work". My own graduate advisor years ago put in a substantial amount of work, and rightfully so deserved credit for his efforts. This professors "work" has been limited to proofing an abstract and receiving oral status reports from me. What little feedback he has provided, I have completely ignored, except when he advice was to not spend too much time on detours, and he knows it. So none of the additions since I started talking with him would be considered his contributions either.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    372

    Default Re: Obligations of a Student Inventor to a Professor

    Good luck with your project, I hope it works out for you.

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