The rules governing intellectual property (“IP”) – such as patents, inventions, copyrights and trademarks – developed by our faculty are detailed in the faculty manual. The ungraceful term “work for hire” simply means that the U, through UInnovation’s Office of Technology Transfer (“OTT”), often owns the IP the faculty member develops. Faculty members are required to submit an invention disclosure through the OTT website. From there, the OTT works with the faculty member to commercialize the IP or to release it to the faculty member.
There is no expectation that all research must lead to commercial products, but commercialization often helps turn research into usable goods and services. Since the income from commercialization is shared by the faculty member, the faculty member’s department and the U, the entrepreneur-in-residence acts as a link with the OTT, the College of Engineering and the faculty to get the best outcome.
Below are answers to some of the most common faculty questions.
- Is the IP developed as part of my faculty appointment or on my own time?
There is not enough space here to go through all of the possible if/then analyses, but remember you’ll want to find investors for or sell this idea at some point in the future. The investor’s or buyer’s first question is going to be, “Who owns the IP?” The slightest cloud will cause any legitimate investor to walk away. The EIR can help you walk through this key question.
- Do I have to start a company to commercialize my IP?
No. Obviously, the more engaged the inventor, the better the chance of success, but that level of engagement can run from licensing and minimal technical support to becoming a new company’s CEO.
- Is there a market for my product?
There is nothing more unpleasant than being told your baby is ugly, or, perhaps worse, it is beautiful but there are already too many beautiful babies. Before you start down that long product-development road, do a thorough search of the market. Whatever you have in mind, there is competition. (And, by the way, the customer doing nothing instead of buying your product is competition.) Being 10% better probably will not be enough. Our EIR will help you with this competitive analysis.
Taking Research to Production
There will be a number of opportunities for learning about the process of commercialization. The OTT and the EIR plan to present a series of seminars on commercialization to our faculty.