Intellectual property rights

Dutch law lays down that the results generated by a student in an internship or graduation project (hereinafter referred to as 'internship') become the property of the company or internship provider (see Section 12, subsection 2 of the Dutch Patents Act, for example). The rules laid down in Dutch law on intellectual property rights are not exhaustive, however. This means that a company or organization therefore has scope to make particular arrangements with you concerning intellectual property rights. It is important, therefore, to check what arrangements the company or organization wishes to agree with you.

What should you watch out for as regards property rights to results?

  1. Ensure that only results generated in the internship become the property of the internship provider. It is common for an article in an internship agreement to lay down that all results generated during the internship and/or that are in the area of a particular subject are the property of the internship provider. The word 'during' is generally interpreted more broadly than when results are described as merely relating to the internship.

    An example of a clause that is unacceptable:
    'All results generated by the student during his internship shall become the property of the internship provider.'

    The word 'during' here relates to a time period, with the result that things, for example, that you have developed in your own time but that are not related to the internship become the property of the internship provider.
     
  2. Ensure that, if the internship agreement refers to a subject to which the results relate, that subject only relates to the subject of the internship and is not phrased in broader terms.

    An example of a clause that is unacceptable:
    ‘The internship provider shall obtain the property rights to all results generated by the student in the area of cars.'

    The result of a clause of this kind is that if you only work on a small part of a car axle in your internship but generate a result in your shed relating to a new kind of exterior car mirror, for example, i.e. something which has nothing to do with the internship, that result (the exterior mirror) also becomes the property of your internship provider.
     
  3. Some internship agreements lay down that results generated not only during the internship but also in a particular period after the end of the internship become the property of the internship provider.
    Ensure that the period is restricted to the duration of the internship, otherwise you could have problems with future employers after the end of your internship.

    An example of a clause that is unacceptable:
    'All rights to results during a period of six months from the end of the Internship that are related to or in the same field as the subject of the Internship, and/or information and know-how obtained during the Internship, and the industrial and intellectual property rights to these results in the Netherlands or elsewhere, shall fall to the internship provider.'

    Suppose your final year internship starts on January 1 2019 and lasts until July 1 2019, you graduate in August 2019 and then start your new job on September 1 2019. Under Dutch law, the results generated by an employee in the service of their employer fall to the employer. In this case, your results from September 1 onwards thus become the property of your new employer. However, by signing the internship agreement you have agreed with the internship provider that all results that you generate until six months after the end of your internship (i.e. up to January 1 2020) still become the property of the internship provider. As a result, you cannot meet your obligations towards your new employer.