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About Intellectual Property at The University of Arizona
Intellectual property, or IP, is a form of property rights created by law, whether statutory or common law, which confer legally enforceable exclusive rights in economically valuable creations of the human mind. As a Tier 1 research university, our faculty and staff are constantly working to expand human knowledge and understanding, scientific or otherwise, and as a result create an enormous amount of IP each year. It is OTT's mission to transfer IP to the private sector so that useful products may be created from our IP.
Types of Intellectual Property Protection
Common forms of Intellectual Property at the University are patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
- Patents provide time-limited legal monopolies over technological innovations, or inventions, such as new machines, medical devices, chemicals, compounds, and methods for performing tasks. An innovation leading to an issued patent must be new, non-obvious, useful, and reduced to practice. Patents must be applied for and approved (issued) by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in order to be enforced.
- Copyrights protect creative works such as books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software and give the author protection from unauthorized copying of such materials. Copyright protection comes into existence upon creation and do not need to be registered, although doing so does avail the University to certain legal advantages.
- Trademarks are unique identifiers used on or in connection with goods and services. The most obvious example at the University is the "block A" University of Arizona logo that appears at the top left of every page on this site. Trademarks, however, can include department logos or the like. Trademarks, like copyrights, do not need to be registered to be enforceable but doing so does give give the University certain legal advantages.
Some lesser known forms of IP that arise from University research are:
- Plant varieties falling within the purview of the Plant Varieties Protection Act.
- Technical Information, although the university's mission is to disseminate knowledge, it sometimes is necessary or advantageous to control the timing and flow of some types of technical information. In that case, the technical information can be treated as psuedo-intellectual property.
Multiple forms of protection might be applicable for the same innovation, for example, computer software source code is automatically protected under copyright as a creative work fixed in a tangible medium of expression (cd-rom, printed on paper, computer hard drive) but may also include a patentable method for solving a particular problem. It is even possible that this same software has been given a unique name to be used commercially, which creates trademark rights as well.
Ownership of University generated IP is governed by the Arizona Board of Regents IP Policy and its University of Arizona implementation. However, research funding may supersede the ABOR or UA policies. For example, many private research funding contracts contain terms that impact IP ownership at the University and the OTT staff spends much of their time researching past funding agreements and their impact on disclosed IP. Generally, federal agency funding contracts are governed by the terms of the Bayh-Dole Act which allows the University to own and exploit inventions created with federal funding. In either case, OTT will review the funding agreements before making an innovation available for licensing.