Student Intellectual Property (IP): Who Owns It and How Do I Pursue Protecting It?

Student Intellectual Property (IP): Who Owns It and How Do I Pursue Protecting It?

With the opening of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship and the access to entrepreneurial and innovation curriculum, students will naturally wish to explore how they can protect their ideas and IP. Some of these ideas can participate in very large or lucrative industries and possibly be the genesis for startups.

Illinois Tech and most, if not all, other universities in the United States do not assert ownership rights on IP (patents, trademarks, copyright, know-how) generated as an outcome of student classwork, research (unpaid), student extracurricular activities, or any student commercial interests. The caveat to this is if students are being paid by either a grant or a stipend as a research assistant. If students receive monies from Illinois Tech to perform work, the university owns the IP. Any royalties resulting from patenting and licensing of Illinois Tech-owned IP will be distributed pursuant to the Patent and Copyright Policy in the Faculty Handbook Appendix K ( and in accordance with the relative contribution as documented on the Invention Disclosure submitted to the Office of Technology Development.

Here is a simple ownership test: Did the student create IP as a customer paying Illinois Tech (tuition) or did the student work on a project in which Illinois Tech paid the student a stipend or as an employee? If the student was working on a project in a course, the student is a customer of Illinois Tech and has an ownership interest the IP. If the student was working on a grant in which they were paid, Illinois Tech owns any IP resulting from the grant. Other contract agreements may also govern the student IP situation in situations such as corporate sponsored IPROs.

Illinois Tech through the Kaplan Institute can advise as to the path forward for business aspects of technology and product development, startup formation, and capital raising. But it is not prudent for Illinois Tech to advise students on IP assets that the university does not own.

Student inventors are encouraged to seek advice and help from the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub. This office is set up to provide advice and referral to a multitude of law firms providing pro-bono patenting/IP services to low-income Illinois inventors. Illinois Tech students may be eligible. For more information, visit

The Chicago-Kent Patent Hub is readily available to assist Illinois Tech student entrepreneurs and inventors with their IP questions and needs!