Introduction to Intellectual Property at UNI

About Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) can be defined as any new, novel, and useful product that is created by the mind of individuals through their own research and development. The creation of new inventions and improvement of earlier technologies are the primary driving force of our economy today. In order to expand and run more efficiently, our economy relies on the sharing and transfer of technology.

Technology transfer will be achieved only if the creators benefit from sharing their original work and ideas with the public. The public compensates creators for their work by granting them Intellectual Property protection in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. These forms of IP protection provide inventors and authors with exclusive rights to the benefits of their creation, and allow the creator to license or sell these exclusive rights for a profit.

Types of Intellectual Property Protection

  • Patent: protects an invention for 20 years from the date of filing.
  • Trade secret: is any information, device, method, formula, etc. whether or not copyrightable or patentable, which is not generally known or accessible apart from the University, and which gives competitive advantage to its owner.
  • Copyright: protect written and artistic works for the life of the author plus 70 years.
  • Trademark: protects icons such as words, names, symbols, or designs that symbolize a certain individual or organization, for as long as the icon remains in regular use. Examples include “UNI”, “Nike”, and “GM”.


Highlights of the UNI Intellectual Property Policy

The complete policy can be found on the UNI Policies and Procedures page.

The President of the University appoints an Intellectual Property Officer and an intellectual Property Committee consisting of faculty and staff members who are chosen to serve staggered three-year terms. These individuals assist the Office of Intellectual Property and the UNI Research Foundation in the protection and management of intellectual properties.

University employees, students and other individuals using University Facilities in the development of intellectual property and those who receive grant or contract funds through the University are required to assign inventions and patents to the UNI Research Foundation.

The UNI Research Foundation agrees to pay inventors a royalty share of the net proceeds for each patent or other intellectual property right assigned to the UNI Research Foundation.

The University will not assert ownership of copyrightable materials produced by faculty members as a part of their normal teaching or scholarly activities at the University unless University ownership is specifically provided for in a related agreement.

A student author of a thesis shall own the thesis copyright but must, as a condition of a degree award, grant royalty-free permission to the University to reproduce and publicly distribute copies of the thesis.

Research and other information about IP development will be made available in the UNI Library, once IP rights have been claimed.


Intellectual Property Committee

The Intellectual Property Committee (IPC) is a faculty and staff organization initiated in 1998. The Committee was instituted in response to the growing number of technologies being developed, copyright concerns, and trademarks managed by University Departments and associated Centers. The mission of the IPC is to support, promote, and encourage the patenting, copyrighting, trademarking, and licensing of works developed at UNI. The IPC also works to maintain and update the IP policy as well as assist with licensing and disbursement of revenue as needed.

Permanent Standing Committees have been specifically designated to provide assistance on copyright and trademark issues. For assistance with these issues, contact the Chairs of the UNI Copyright Committee or UNI Trademark Committee.


Profiting from Intellectual Property

One of the greatest incentives to patenting, copyrighting or securing a trademark is the potential to move the creation into commercial use. The route that best accomplishes this is the pursuit and negotiation of a license agreement with an interested company. The license agreement is written permission for a company to produce or use the creation. A book written by a University professor might also be licensed in order to be printed. A patented technology, such as a new industrial machine, is a good example of something that might be licensed. In exchange, the licensee pays a royalty for the privilege of using the IP.

After paying expenses that result from pursuit of most forms of IP (i.e. lawyer fees, application fees, patent searches), the net proceeds are distributed as defined in the University of Northern Iowa Patent Policy. The first $10,000 of profit from the technology is awarded to the creator(s). After this initial award, the profits are shared between the creator(s) and the University. This is referred to as profit sharing. The creator receives 50% of future profits and the University is entitled to the remaining 50% of future profits. The University’s share is distributed to the Research Foundation and the University Sponsoring Unit, which receives 20% and 30% of the total profits, respectively.



Research Foundation - The incorporated unit through which University intellectual properties are managed, and profits from intellectual properties are received, disbursed, and managed.

University Sponsoring Unit - The College(s), or Administrative unit outside the College, or the applicable Divisional Vice President which contributes the support for personnel time, procurement, and/or prototype development of the intellectual property.

Net Proceeds - The gross receipts derived from trademarks, trade secrets, materials, inventions, discoveries, and/or intellectual properties, including but not limited to, rents, royalties, dividends, earnings, gains, and sale proceeds less development costs.

The official policy can be found on the UNI Policies and Procedures page.


How to Claim Intellectual Property Rights

When UNI employees create a new, novel, and useful product, they should contact the Intellectual Property Officer for support in the intellectual property process. Timing of this disclosure is especially important. In order to obtain full intellectual property rights, the earliest communication is recommended. Disclosure to the IPC must be done before any type of public exposure, including publication or public presentation. Pre-patent public exposure can result in the loss of patent rights.

Detailed procedures for claiming Intellectual Property rights is found at the following links.

  • Patents and Trade Secrets
  • Copyright
  • Trademark


Further Information about Intellectual Property

The U.S. Office of Patent and Trademarks can be found at:

The U.S. Copyright office is found at:

Another good website is the Association of University Technology Transfer Managers at: