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Master´s degree guide for thesis writing

1.6 Rights to thesis outcomes

Thesis-related legal issues that need to be taken into account include various rights to the thesis outcome (copyright, patent, design right) as well as responsibility issues in case of accidents and claims. The student and the client company commissioning the thesis agree on these separately when signing the thesis agreement (appendix 4).


According to section 1 in chapter 1 of the Copyright Act (404/1961) a person who has created a literary or artistic work (including computer programmes, drawings as well as graphical and plastic works of art) have copyright therein. According to section 2 the copyright “provides exclusive right to control a work by reproducing it or by making it available to the public, in the original from or in an altered form”. The Act does not define separately thesis copyright.

Students can write their thesis for their employer but a thesis can be commissioned by a company also without the student being employed. In case a thesis is commissioned, all parties should agree on the copyright issues. In addition to the thesis contract, the employed student and the client company commissioning the thesis must sign an agreement specifying the copyright issues. Employment is based on the employment contract. Usually the employer has the copyright. However, the parties can agree otherwise, either individually or collectively. In case there is no separate agreement on the copyright, the employer has the right to the work created by an employee in the scope of the normal operations of the employer. (Haarmann 2005, 321–326.)

The copyright includes also photographs. Consequently, a photographer has the copyright to his or her own photographs. Thus, if the author of the thesis uses photographs that are taken by someone else than the author himself or herself, one must have a license given by the photographer to use that particular photograph in the thesis. The author must also agree with the photographer on the possible payments for using the photograph. In addition, the author needs to contact the people in the photograph and have their permission to use the photograph in the thesis.

Design right

According to Registered Design Act (221/1971) the term design means the model of the appearance of a product or ornamentation. According to the Act, a person ”who has created the design or his or her successor in title may through registration obtain the exclusive to the design”. Design can be registered only if it is essentially different from other design made available to the public before the date of filing the application for registration. The registrations are administered by the Finnish patent and Registration Office. (please see the forms of Finnish Patent and Registration Office:

The Act on Utility Model (800/1991) states that a person who has made an invention, or his or her successor in title, can be entitled on application to the utility model right to the invention and is thus provided the exclusive right to exploit the invention commercially. The term ‘invention’ means a technical solution that is commercially exploitable. The invention must be new. A utility model may be registered (cf. the forms of the Finnish Patent and Registration Office). The term of protection of a utility model is four years from the filing date of the application and the registration can be renewed. A utility model right may be transferred.

Layout-design means ”the three-dimensional pattern of the elements of an integrated circuit” (Act on the Exclusive Right in the Layout-Design (Topography) of an Integrated Circuit 32/1991). The term ’integrated circuit’ means ”a circuit in which the elements , at least one of which is an active element,..have been placed on a semiconductor substrate to form a functional entity and which is intended to perform electronic circuitry functions”. The layout-design must be original. An exclusive right to the layout-design may be obtained by registration.

Patent right

Since 1 January 2007 universities have had the right to the student’s inventions made through contractual research or through other work. However, students have the right to their inventions made through open research. (Act 369/2006, sections 1, 6, 7 and 8).

More information on design right and copyright can be found for example in the following sources:

  • Copyright issues on the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture
    Haarmann, P. 2005. Tekijänoikeus ja lähioikeudet. Helsinki: Talentum.
    Haarmann, P. 2006. Immateriaalioikeus. Helsinki: Talentum. 4th revised edition
  • Information on commercial rights and copyright on the website of the Finnish Patent and registration Office at

Up-to-date laws can be found in FINLEX

  • Copyright Act 404/1961 with amendments
  • Registered Designs Act 221/1971 with amendments
  • Act on Utility Model Rights 800/1991 with amendments
  • Act on the Exclusive Right in the Layout-Design (Topography) of an Integrated Circuit 32/1991 with amendments
  • Act on Rights to Inventions Made in Universities 369/2006.