IP in the workplace

As a student, any IP you create, is yours unless you voluntarily give it up.

Under both legislation and your employment contract, any IP you create as an employee, belongs to your employer as a function of them paying you.

To put this in perspective a company has to know who owns the code they rely on to generate income. If the code is owned by the last 40 or 50 employees, this very quickly becomes a nightmare to manage. Instead employers (not just IT employers) through your salary pay you for any IP you create in the course of your employment.

This is an example of an extreme case of a company being 'loose' around who owns the IP the company relies on.

Typically you do not need to do anything other than accept payment for the IP ownership to transfer to your employer or whomever commissioned the work.

Within NZ, code is covered under copyright (CopyRight Act 1996, search www.legislation.govt.nz) as a literary work (see definition of literary work). Under the act, see Section 21 (2) and (3), First Ownership of Copyright which in essence passes ownership of any literary work or computer program to your employer.

It is possible to contract out of this, however this tends to follow industry norms. For example, a photographer typically retains ownership of the images they take under your direction. They sell you a limited right to use those images. In contrast, unless you are a researcher of significant standing, it is unlikely an IT company will agree to you retaining ownership of IP. Even then they will prefer to buy those rights rather than risk the researcher walking away with the rights.

For the avoidance of doubt, you do not have an employment relationship with the university. This is why you own any IP generated at university. It is also why there are interesting discussions on IP any time you undertake industry projects as a student. Industry needs to know who owns the IP. If it is not them, they cannot risk using your outputs.