Intellectual Property Primer

Intellectual Property is a term that encompasses all forms of creativity that are protected either under statutes or by common law. It includes inventions, discoveries, know-how, show-how, processes, unique materials, copyrightable works, original data and other creative or artistic works.


Intellectual Property (IP) also includes the physical embodiment of intellectual effort. For example, IP can be models, machines, devices, apparatus, instrumentation, circuits, computer programs and visualizations, biological materials, chemicals, other compositions of matter, plans and records of research.

Some IP is protected by statute or legislation, such as patent, copyright, trademark, service mark, mask work or by plant variety protection certificate and confidentiality agreements. Often a specific technology is protected using multiple mechanisms. For example, some computer software can be protected by copyright, patent, trade secret, trademark, and contracts.



Intellectual Property (IP) is an asset that could have great intellectual and/or monetary value to the University, the creators of the property, and the State of Illinois. The University is required by state and federal statutes, industrial research agreements, and other research relations to manage the IP that results from the University's research programs.

In recent years, most research universities have become directly involved in the commercialization of university IP, offering direct assistance in evaluating, protecting, marketing, and licensing technology. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), services related to IP are provided by the Office of Technology Management (OTM), a support unit that reports to the Vice President of Technology and Economic Development.

Established in the fall of 1995, the OTM has the responsibility to protect University IP through patents, trademarks and copyrights, and to market, and license the technology for commercial development and product sales. The OTM also negotiates and provides assistance in all IP-related agreements. This publication was prepared by the OTM to inform University faculty, staff, and students about University policies and obligations concerning IP. It also summarizes the opportunities for assistance provided by the OTM in interacting with industry and in evaluating, protecting and commercializing IP. Brief summaries of IP-related topics are presented, along with references to sources for more detailed information, including applicable University policies and administrative procedures and documents.