IPIRA supports UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students and their cutting edge research. We help you find funding opportunities, build industry-affiliate programs, understand the commercial potential of your ideas, and extend the impact of your research by catalyzing the transition of your discoveries from the lab into products and services.



Intellectual property (IP) refers to a category of intangible property rights comprising primarily patents, copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets. The table below summarizes ownership of the various types of intellectual property at the University of California.

A patent for an invention grants “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention or importing the invention into the country where patent rights exist. Patentable subject matter includes new compounds, methods, plants, and software. Obtaining a patent can take many years and significant expense. Learn more at the UC Berkeley Patent Website.


Copyright protects the effort that goes into creating “original works of authorship” and art by providing exclusive rights to the copyright owner (who is not necessarily the author or artist) for a limited, time. The types of “work of authorship” are very broad – from the writings and artwork you expect to things like choreography, web pages, computer programs, databases, architectural drawings and boat hull designs. Learn more at the UC Berkeley Copyright Website.

Trade and Service Marks

A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms “trademark” and “mark” are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a “confusingly similar” mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office. Some UCB trademark matters, such as trademark registration and licensing of UC Berkeley’s name and trademarks, are administered by UCB’s Business Contracts and Brand Protection - https://bcbp.berkeley.edu/brand-protection.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential information, methods, machinery etc. that provide a business competitiveness. UCB generally does not assert rights to the "know-how" or a trade secret held by the faculty. UCB occasionally may maintain, transfer and/or receive confidential information under secrecy agreements. UCB, however, does not generally license know-how or trade secrets.

A patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.​
An inventor is anyone who actually conceives an invention and/or has contributed to conception of an invention with another inventor. All inventors need not make equal contributions. Inventorship is a legal determination made by a patent attorney and is not the same as authorship on a scientific paper.
Your work is patentable if it meets 5 criteria:
  1. Patentable Subject Matter: Process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, improvement of any of these.

    What is not Patentable: Laws of nature, physical phenomena, Abstract ideas, Literary (dramatic, musical, and artistic works), those inventions that are not useful or offensive to the public.

  2. Utility: What is the purpose of your innovation? Do you, as the inventor, still need to find its function? Before applying for a patent your innovation requires a use, function, or purpose. It can not be determined, or researched more during the patent process. You invention is not required to be made, built or constructed to be patented, but its use must be predetermined.
  3. Novelty: Is your innovation new and original? Has your idea already been patented, printed, or in use for over a year? If your idea is to be patented it must not be in use for up to a year of the filing. Your innovation should be new and innovative. Initially it should be something that others have not already processed and patented.
  4. Nonobviousness: Does your innovation take the extra step? Does it take your field one notch further? Your innovation must have a non-obviousness aspect to construct its patent. The innovation must be novel and bring your studies to a new level that it has yet to be reached. Therefore, it must be useful to your field and be an additive to the process of your research or innovation.
  5. Describable : Do you know the specific way to enact your invention? Can you describe it in detail? The requirement to be able to describe your innovation in complete confidence, with precise detail so that someone in your field could repeat the process, is required of you to achieve a patent.
This is a private contract between you, as a consultant, and the company. The agreement should indicate that the University of California will have no authority or liability in the consulting relationship. It should also recognize your primary duties as a UC employee, and that your employment obligations to UC and UC policies will be given priority in the event of a conflict. See the full set of recommended provisions for including in any consulting agreement.


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