Intellectual Property

Generally speaking, intellectual property refers to a set of legal entitlements.


There are several categories of intellectual property, including:

Patent: grant of property rights on new, useful, and non-obvious inventions by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The grant of a patent excludes others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the invention in the United States. Patents are specific to the granting country or region of countries. In the United States, the right conferred by the patent grant extends throughout the United States. Additional information on patents can be found at

Copyright: protection given to original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, giving the holder of the copyright the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform, make derivate works, and display the work. Software is a common copyrighted work in an academic setting. Although research publications are also copyrighted works in an academic setting, according to academic custom, The University of Iowa does not take institutional ownership in individual publications. Additional information on copyrights can be found at

Trademark: protection given to any distinctive word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. The UIRF generally does not pursue trademark protection except in select cases. Most of the trademark protection that occurs at The University of Iowa is protection of the University’s name, symbols, and mascots. Handling of these trademarks is done through The University of Iowa Athletic Department. Additional information on trademarks can be found at

Trade secret: protection given to a formula, process, device, or other business information that is kept confidential to maintain an advantage over competitors. Due to the open nature of public universities, trade secrets, while commonly important intellectual property in companies, are less commonly protected in academic settings.

The University of Iowa Intellectual Property

Under The University of Iowa policies on patents and copyrights, much of the IP coming out of research conducted using University resources is owned by the UIRF. There are several advantages to having University ownership of certain intellectual property. These advantages include:

  • Technology transfer through the UIRF is a method for translating an inventor's work from the laboratory into a product that may benefit society
  • The UIRF pays all costs to file and prosecute patent applications for accepted technologies
  • Patent applications and patents automatically publish and serve as scholarly work for tenure decisions. Please see at Procedures for Tenure and Promotion Decision Making at The University of Iowa , page 9, paragraph (d) (vii).
  • UIRF Licensing Professionals manage the patenting process and negotiate licensing agreements intended to facilitate commercialization of the technology
  • License agreements may provide personal income to the inventor(s), and direct revenue back to the inventor’s department and college
  • Licensees may be interested in sponsoring research in the inventors' laboratories

In order for the UIRF to best protect patentable University intellectual property for the benefit of the University and the benefit of the staff or faculty member, there are certain steps that we ask inventors to follow. Here is information designed to help inventors assist the UIRF in securing ownership rights.

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