Intellectual Property and Innovations


Innovation is a new idea, method, product or the application of a better solution.

Intellectual Property (IP) are creations of the mind and includes inventions, software, literary works, performing and visual arts, digital works, film, photographs, designs, and tangible research property. IP is eligible for protections offered by law to the owner for prohibiting unauthorized use by others. IP laws provide protections to creators/owners by regulating the public's use of such works and offer means for creators and owners to be compensated for that use.

University Responsibilities

  • Provide support and resources to protect University owned IP and to facilitate the transfer of university IP for public benefit
  • Share income derived from university IP with the creators, the academic units and the university
  • Treat all creators equally irrespective of their standing within the institution

Creators responsibilities

  • Principal investigators whose research is funded by federal grants have a duty to disclose. The Bayh-Dole Act requires invention reporting for recipients of federal research funding. NIU must report all inventions in order to maintain eligibility for future federal funding. 
  • Actively protect university IP until appropriate protections are in place by avoiding premature public disclosure.
  • Report IP to the Technology Transfer Office promptly and completely with the innovation disclosure form
  • Cooperate fully and timely in the provision of information, document reviews, records and documents, and execute necessary forms related to university-owned IP.
  • Keep the Technology Transfer Office informed of ongoing developments and improvements of works.

Many forms of protections are available for IP including markings, agreements, registrations, and patents. The character and circumstances of the IP determine the type of protection utilized. Commonly the innovation can benefit from more than one type of protection. Some protections are automatically available and do not require formal registration or applications, or registration is optional. Other protections, such as the issuance of a patent, require extensive documentation, external examination, and university cost investment.

Intellectual property protection mechanisms available include

  • Use of Proprietary markings and notices added to materials
  • Copyright markings and Registration – US Copyright Office
  • Agreements such as: confidentiality, non-disclosure agreements, proprietary information agreements, outgoing material transfer agreements or license agreements.
  • Patent Applications and Letters Patent – US Patent and Trademark Office
  • Trademarks/Service Marks – US Patent and Trademark Office
  • Trade secrets – do it yourself secrecy

In consultation with the creators, the university shall have final authority for decisions concerning the protections sought for IP, as well as the selection and use of outside resources, including outside legal counsel, to assist in obtaining protection. Responsibility for patent administration, including the retention of patent counsel, is shared by the Technology Transfer Office and Vice President for Research & Innovation Partnerships.