The University of Iowa

Intellectual Property

  1. Introduction
  2. Intellectual Property Policy: Patents, Copyrights
  3. Identifying and Reporting Inventions
  4. Additional Reference Information

a. Introduction

The University of Iowa's intellectual property policy pertains to patentable inventions and copyright-protected works created by its faculty members, staff members, postdoctoral appointees, and students.

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b. Intellectual Property Policy: Patents, Copyrights

The UI's intellectual property policy is administered under the oversight of the Vice President for Research, who appoints an Intellectual Property Committee. The IP Committee's role is to advise the Vice President for Research regarding intellectual property matters including, but not limited to, the resolution of disputes arising from the application of the policy. The Committee also advises the Vice President of any need for altering the policy or its administrative implementation. In appointing members of the Intellectual Property Committee, the Vice President will attempt to include members from all constituencies affected by the policy. The Vice President will seek advice prior to appointing committee members from such established groups as the Faculty Senate, the Staff Council, and the Student Senate.

Because there are differences between the legal/academic treatment of patentable inventions and copyright-protected works, the University's IP policy comprises two companion policy statements: a Patent Policy and a Copyright Policy.

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Patent Policy

Patent protection provides the owner with a limited period of time in which the owner can exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, or selling the invention. The resulting temporary exclusive rights to the invention can provide an incentive for a patent owner or a licensee to invest the resources required to advance the invention toward commercialization and use by the public. In return for offering temporary exclusive rights to the owner of a patent, the government requires the owner of the patent to make details of the invention available to the public in the patent document. Under United States law, the life of a patent extends 20 years from the date of application.

Through its designee, the University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF), the University will assume ownership of patents on qualifying inventions made by its employees and appointees. In a limited number of situations, the University, through its UIRF designee, will assume ownership of patents on qualifying inventions made by students and institutional visitors. Earnings from patents subject to this policy will be distributed according to the provisions of this policy.

Copyright Policy

A copyright is a form of intellectual property protection provided by law for certain original works including written works, software, and selected audio, visual, or performed compositions. The copyright protects the particular form of expression rather than the subject matter or content of the work. One cannot copyright an idea, only the particular expression of the idea. Unlike patent protection, copyright protection exists from the time an original work is created, and vests immediately when the work is fixed in a "tangible medium" for the first time. Such tangible media might include paper, a computer disk, or granite.

Holding a copyright allows the owner certain exclusive prerogatives including the right to reproduce and distribute the protected material, the right to prepare "derivative works" based on the protected material, and (in the case of various artistic works) the right to display or perform the protected work. The owner of a copyright may convey to others all or some of the rights inherent in the copyright. For example, the owner of a copyright may "assign" all interest in the protected material to another. Alternatively, the owner of a copyright may grant a limited "permission" that allows another to use the protected material. In some cases, the owner of a copyright may grant a "license" to another that specifies the nature of any permitted uses of the copyright material.

In order to meet the preceding various objectives, this policy allocates the ownership of copyrightable works created by faculty, staff, and students. Consistent with academic tradition and the expressed desire to encourage dissemination of the results of scholarship and research, the University agrees that in most cases, individual creators of copyrightable works of scholarship, research, or pedagogy, as well as creators of original works of art and literature, typically will hold personal copyright ownership of those works. The policy also specifies a limited body of works that will be owned by the University. In some cases, "individual" ownership might be distributed over a group of joint authors or creators. In other cases, an individual or group of individuals might hold joint ownership with the University.

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c. Ident​ifying and Reporting Inventions

The University of Iowa has designated the UI Research Foundation as the owner of its patent rights and manager of its interests in qualifying inventions. Any individual who believes that he or she has made, or contributed to the making of, a qualifying invention must disclose the invention in writing to the UIRF, using the  Invention Disclosure Form.

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d. Add​itional Reference Information

For detailed information on UI-specific patent and copyright policies and procedures, please refer to the University Operations Manual, Section V, Chapter 30, which includes information from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the University of Iowa Research Foundation, and the State Board of Regents.

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