Intellectual property (IP) consists of creations of the mind that are subject to legal protection. The term can refer to both tangible and intangible assets, such as inventions, research articles, names, and know-how, and can also refer to the legal rights in those assets. Under IP laws, owners have rights to exclude others from reproducing, manufacturing, distributing, selling and/or making other uses of their intellectual property.
Three common types of IP protection are:
One or more of these forms of protection may be available for research results at Harvard. In addition, technology, materials, information and other things used in research by Harvard researchers may be subject to others' IP rights.Back to Top
IP rights ordinarily are enforced by their owners, through infringement lawsuits. Interaction with the government is required in order to obtain certain kinds of IP rights or to secure certain legal advantages available for IP. IP rights often vary from one jurisdiction to another.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues patents in this country. Patents give the holder the right to exclude others from “making, using, offering for sale or selling” an invention in the U.S. or importing the invention into the U.S. In general, patents are issued for 20 years from the date upon which the patent application was filed.
The USPTO also registers trademarks. Trademarks give the holder the right to exclude others from using a similar mark to distinguish goods and services. Registrations for trademarks can be renewed for as long as the marks are used in business. In addition, common law trademark rights may arise by use of a mark in commerce. “Harvard” is an example of a trademark.
Copyrights protect works of authorship. Under current law, a copyright arises automatically when a work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyrights may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office; though this is not required for copyright protection, it secures some benefits. U.S. copyrights in works written since 1978 generally expire 70 years after the author’s death, with some exceptions.
Researchers who develop or produce intellectual property using federally sponsored funds should be aware of the Bayh-Dole Act (1980), under which institutions such as Harvard that receive federal research awards may retain ownership of inventions arising from the research. The Act imposes various obligations and conditions. Like other research universities, Harvard has an office -- the Office of Technology Development (see below) -- to manage its patenting and licensing activities and to handle compliance with the Act.Back to Top
Harvard has a university-wide policy that governs the ownership and handling of intellectual property arising from research and other activities at Harvard. Among other things, the policy defines which IP will be owned by Harvard and sets out the rights and obligations of Harvard researchers with respect to that IP (including, e.g., as regards the reporting of inventions, release of inventions by Harvard to inventors and the sharing of revenues derived from commercialization of Harvard-owned IP). The Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for implementing the IP Policy with respect to inventions, software and other materials that arise from Harvard research activities. The full IP Policy, as well as a concise summary of its content and implementation procedures, can be found on OTD’s website.
The University and its Schools also have adopted other policies concerning IP and the development and licensing of technology. These policies can be found on OTD's website and on the Provost's Office website.
In addition, a number of Harvard Faculties and Schools have adopted open-access policies for scholarly articles authored by Harvard faculty members. The open-access policies grant Harvard a nonexclusive license to use and distribute a faculty member’s articles, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The open-access policies can be found on the Office for Scholarly Communication’s website.
The Harvard Trademark Program oversees the worldwide registration and protection of Harvard’s trademarks and administers the University’s Use-of-Name policies, which govern how the Harvard name (including the names of the University’s schools and units) may be used by members of the Harvard community. The policies (including the University’s primary use-of-name policy: The Use of Harvard Names and Insignias) may be found at the Harvard Trademark Program policy page.
A useful resource in the course of research is "Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community," which can be found on the Copyright Resources section of the Office of General Counsel website.Back to Top