What is “intellectual property” and who owns what I create?

Intellectual property includes inventions and/or material that may be protected under the patent, trademark and/or copyright laws, and sometimes by contract.

Ownership depends upon the employment status of the creators of the invention and their use of University facilities. Considerations include:

  • What is the source of the funds or resources used to produce the invention?
  • What was the employment status of the creators at the time the intellectual property was made?
  • What are the terms of any agreement related to the creation of the intellectual property?

As a general rule, the University owns inventions made by its employees while acting within the scope of their employment or using University resources.

The University’s copyright policy describes the applicable rules for copyrightable works. Also see relevant excerpts from the Duke Faculty Handbook here. In some cases, the terms of a Sponsored Research Agreement or Materials Transfer Agreement may impact ownership. When in doubt, it is best to call OTC for advice.