Faculty Ownership

Article III of the University General Rules describes all aspects of how intellectual property is handled at the University of Illinois.  The following excerpts describe when the University owns a piece of intellectual property, and the rights it retains.  For more information, we recommend referencing the General Rules and to contact your tech manager who can work to clarify any confusion.


What is owned by the University?

Under The University’s General Rules, Article III:

Except as otherwise specified in this Article or by the University in writing, intellectual property shall belong to the University if made: (1) by a University employee as a result of the employee’s duties or (2) through the use by any person, including a University employee, of University resources such as facilities, equipment, funds, or funds under the control of or administered by the University.

It should be important to note that the University's definition of 'Creator' extends beyond the legal definition of inventor in U.S patent law.  As described in the General Rules, Article III Section 2  A creator is:

(c) Creator.  “Creator” refers to an individual or group of individuals who make, conceive, reduce to practice, author, or otherwise make a substantive intellectual contribution to the creation of intellectual property.  “Creator” includes the definition of “inventor” used in U.S. patent law for patentable inventions and the definition of “author” used in the U.S. Copyright Act for copy written works of authorship.


University copyrights and the academic exception

Article III, section 4 describes the University's ownership of copyrights, and when it the academic exception is in place.

(a) Ownership. Unless subject to any of the exceptions specified below or in Section 4(c), creators retain rights to traditional academic copyrightable works as defined in Section 2(b) above. (See, however, Sections 4(b)(2) below.)

(1) Works created pursuant to the terms of a University agreement with a third party, or

(2) Works created as a specific requirement of employment or as an assigned University duty that may be specified, for example, in a written job description or an employment agreement. Such specification may define the full scope or content of the employee’s University employment duties comprehensively or may be limited to terms applicable to a single copyrightable work. [see end note 2]

(3) Works specifically commissioned by the University. The term “commissioned work” refers to a copyrightable work prepared under an agreement between the University and the creator when (1) the creator is not a University employee, or (2) the creator is a University employee but the work to be performed falls outside the normal scope of the creator’s University employment. Contracts covering commissioned works shall specify that the author convey by assignment, if necessary, such rights as are required by the University.

(4) Works that are also patentable. The University reserves the right to pursue multiple forms of legal protection concomitantly if available. Computer software, for example, can be protected by copyright, patent, trade secret and trademark.


The University retains some rights in Creator-owned Works

Article III Section 4(b) describes which rights the University retains for Creator-owned Works.

(1) Traditional academic copyrightable works created using University resources usually and customarily provided are owned by the creators.  Such works need not be licensed to the University.

(2) Traditional academic copyrightable works created with use of University resources over and above those usually and customarily provided shall be owned by the creators but licensed to the University.  The minimum terms of such license shall grant the University the right to use the original work and to make and use derivative works in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis.  The University may retain more than the minimum license rights when justified by the circumstances of development.