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Student Ownership

Ownership of Intellectual Property Created by Students at the University of Illinois

As the office entrusted with the stewardship of the intellectual property created at the University, the Office of Technology Management (OTM) often frequently receives inquiries regarding ownership of intellectual property created by students. Below are general guidelines for determining when intellectual property is owned by a student and when it is owned by the University. For more specific details of the governing rules see Article III of The General Rules Concerning University Organization and Procedure or contact an OTM staff member.

According to The General Rules, excluding certain copyrighted works as noted below**, the University owns all intellectual property developed by any University employee or by anyone, including students, using any University facilities, equipment or funds.

The University encourages student innovation and entrepreneurship and, as such, has typically granted exceptions to the General Rules regarding ownership of student inventions when certain criteria are met. However, these exceptions are only granted as long as the invention does not incorporate, depend upon or is not derived directly from University-owned background intellectual property.

Criteria for student class projects are applied on a course by course basis and include (but are not limited to):

  • Memorialization in supporting documentation prepared by the course instructor in conjunction with OTM in advance of the course commencing.
  • Exception is granted by the Vice Chancellor for Research for certain courses that allow students to own their inventions made as part of the course.
  • Exception applies when the only University facilities used were those routinely made available by the College/Department to all students enrolled in the course.
  • If any “Background IP” (inventions) involved, it is University IP. (e.g. previous disclosure to starting a senior design project)
  • If faculty or any other University employee plays a significant role in generation of IP that would qualify them as an inventor for such invention under US patent law, the invention would be jointly owned by the student and the University.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to inform the faculty member and obtain formal permission prior to any such use in the classroom.


**Student Works.  Copyrightable works prepared by students as part of the requirements for a University degree program are deemed to be the property of the student but are subject to the following provisions:

  • (1) The original records (including software) of an investigation for a graduate thesis or dissertation are the property of the University but may be retained by the student at the discretion of the student’s major department.
  • (2) The University shall have, as a condition of awarding the degree, the royalty-free right to retain, use and distribute a limited number of copies of the thesis, together with the right to require its publication for archival use.