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Technology Transfers: Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Trademark Info

Western Illinois University protects and promotes faculty, staff, and students’ innovations to both benefit the public and stimulate economic growth. Below you will find information on the basics of intellectual property, types of protection, and the process for disclosing an innovation. 

Technology transfer is the formal transfer of rights from WIU to another party for the use and commercialization of new discoveries and innovations. Technology is generally transferred through the licensing of intellectual property such as patents and copyrights. However, innovations aren’t limited to tangible inventions, but can also include the transfer of knowledge through training and educating students, extension and outreach services to existing and startup companies, cooperative education and internships, consulting services, and collaborative research activities.

  • Successful commercialization efforts or the transfer of technology can yield many benefits:
  • Enables society to benefit from your work
  • Feeling a sense of personal fulfillment
  • Attracts research funding/sponsors
  • Forms industrial partnerships
  • Places graduate students in rewarding jobs
  • Offers recognition and financial reward for you and WIU
  • Meets the obligations of a research contract

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish. Generally, intellectual property is protected by federal patent law, federal copyright law, federal trademark law, state trademark law, state laws regarding trade secrets and other laws related to businesses and contracts.

If the intellectual property was developed by an employee of WIU or invented at WIU facilities, the intellectual property is owned by WIU. This includes all faculty, staff, and fellows who have an appointment at WIU. Additional information regarding WIU’s intellectual property policy is found here.

Intellectual property should be disclosed early in the development process. Disclosure to WIU should be made before any public disclosure (oral or written) of the information is made. After you publish, present or otherwise publicly disclose your invention, you have one year from the first disclosure date to file a U.S. patent. After this anniversary has passed, you may lose all US patent rights. No grace period exists for foreign patent applications. With very few exceptions, all foreign patent rights will be irrevocably lost once your invention is publicly disclosed. 

In this way, an informed evaluation can be completed for the potential invention and an appropriate protection and marketing strategy developed. 

Pre-Existing Intellectual Property Disclosure Form


A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States.

The right granted by the patent is, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without the aid of the USPTO. 

There are three types of patents:

  • Utility Patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  • Design Patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture, and
  • Plant Patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers a distinct and new variety of an asexually reproducing plant in an uncultivated state.

According to the USPTO, in order to receive a patent, your technology must be novel, useful and non-obvious. Some examples of patentable subject matter include: apparatus, coatings, circuits, polymers, systems, controllers, sensors, detectors, nanotechnologies, diagnostics, therapeutics, designs, methods, compounds, processes, gene therapies, small molecules, medical devices and transgenic animals. If you have any questions about the patentability of your research, please contact techtransfer@wiu.edu.

Inventor involvement is important to the entire patenting and commercialization process. Inventors typically provide technical evaluation of previous patents and publications in their field, supply information to the patent attorney to assist with writing the patent, review draft applications and responses to patent office actions, and discuss technical aspects with interested companies. We strive to keep inventors well informed during the process and will always consider your input when making decisions about protecting and licensing your invention. Final responsibility for all protection and licensing decisions rests with WIU.

Copyrights, Trademarks, Material Transfers, and Confidentiality Agreements

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship.” This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works as well as computer software. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. The Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to conduct and authorize various acts, including reproduction, public performance and making derivative works. 

Copyright protection is automatically secured when a work is fixed into a tangible medium such as a book, song, software code, video, mobile app, etc. It is not necessary to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, although registration of the copyright is useful in certain litigation situations. Contact

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those manufactured or sold by others. A service mark, on the other hand, is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Some examples include: brand names, slogans, and logos. The term "trademark" is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks. Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks and service marks do not expire after a set term of years. Trademark rights come from actual “use” in the marketplace. Therefore, a trademark can last forever - so long as you continue to use the mark in commerce to indicate the source of goods and services. 

A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a contract that protects the transfer of tangible research materials between two organizations. There may be instances where your research may be beneficial to others for research or for commercial development. Or conversely, you may want to utilize research materials from an external source. The MTA defines the rights of the provider and the recipient with respect to the materials and any derivatives. If a researcher requests material from you, let them know that an MTA will need to be completed before you can send any materials. The researcher(s) can email techtransfer@wiu.edu directly. Once we have all of the required information, we will complete the paperwork and let you know when it is fine to transfer the materials.

A confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), which is also known as non-disclosure agreement (NDA), is a contract between two or more parties to establish a legal expectation that both parties will keep the information provided secret and use it only for an agreed purpose.

Contact techtransfer@wiu.edu before talking about your innovation to another party such as a company. We can get a CDA/NDA into place that will protect your rights. In addition, we may be able to establish a partnership with the company that will benefit your efforts for further research and licensing.