Establishing rights to intellectual property (IP) such as inventions and copyrights, data, formulae, computer software specifications, processes, patents, or other technical or product information is important to both the University and the inventor(s), regardless of whether the inventor is a faculty member, staff member, or student. The WPI Intellectual Property Policy was developed for the purpose of setting forth rights and obligations of the University and its employees when IP is created.
The University's ownership rights to the IP it creates or reduces to practice under federal funding is protected by law under most federally sponsored agreements. The government usually maintains a non-exclusive, royalty-free license for government purposes. However, the ownership and commercial rights to inventions developed under external, non-federal sponsorship are negotiated as part of the sponsorship agreement. While the circumstances vary widely, in most cases the university retains ownership of the IP it develops with the sponsor retaining an option to a commercial license for inventions developed. Responsibility for IP protection expenses are usually a significant aspect of the sponsorship agreement negotiations on commercial rights.
At a minimum, the university will insist on maintaining the ability to use the IP for internal research and educational purposes. The University and the inventors also retain financial interest in any financial consideration received as a result of licensing including royalties that may result.