The IPI evaluates the commercial potential of inventions developed by students at WPI, as well as the intellectual property protections that are available to said inventions. The IPI does not guarantee an interest in and patenting commitment to every invention disclosed—based upon the initial assessment of an invention and according to the WPI Intellectual Property Policy, the IPI may initiate a patent application process or it may return the invention to the inventor.

Disclosure, Licensing, & Patenting

The disclosure process begins with the inventors contacting the IPI for an informal review of the circumstances and subject matter of the invention. It is important to contact the IPI as early as possible after an invention is made and before it is described outside the group of inventors, as there may be substantial consequences in public disclosure for the legal rights involved.

If a determination is made that the invention may be patentable, the IPI will request the inventor to submit the WPI Invention Disclosure Form (Word) and to complete (often with IPI assistance) any other necessary initial disclosures that may be required, e.g. notification of joint institutional partners or sponsors with rights in the invention.

A carefully completed WPI Invention Disclosure Form allows the IPI to begin an effective evaluation of the invention's potential value as an intellectual property asset of the university and to initiate the patenting process if indicated. If the university does proceed, the IPI will maintain dialogue with the inventor and a patent attorney to develop a patent application. Patent issuance can take anywhere from 18-26 months, during which time the IPI will initiate marketing efforts typically in coordination with other university centers and institutes to commercialize the invention.

Various commercialization paths may be pursued, but all involve some type of licensing of patent rights. Licensing technologies is a challenging step in the process of technology transfer. Inventors are highly encouraged to build relevant industry networks, publish articles about the technology, and attend conferences and tradeshows to promote the technology. Remember—disclose to IPI first.

Ownership Rights

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).



FAQ for Students

  • What is intellectual property at WPI? At WPI, Intellectual property refers to any idea or invention you have created that has the potential to become a patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secret.
  • What counts as Intellectual Property for me as a WPI student? If you created an invention on your personal time at WPI, through IQP or MQP, for a class project, or for a professor, then you have created a piece of intellectual property.
  • How do I protect my idea or invention? First, determine if you created your work separately of WPI or with WPI.
  • What if my work is independent of WPI? If you created your invention without using any WPI resources and purchased the material on your own, then your invention is your own and WPI’s Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation can provide help when it comes to marketing your invention.
  • What if I created my work independent of WPI but I want WPI to cover the patent application costs? You have the option of being treated as a WPI faculty member where WPI will cover your patent expenses and the profits will be split 50/50.
  • What if I created my idea or invention using WPI’s resources and/or with a WPI professor? You have the option to pay for the intellectual property expense on your own and WPI will own 1% of your invention or you will be treated as a faculty member where WPI will cover your patent expenses and the profits will be split 50/50.
  • What if I created my idea or invention with a WPI faculty member? You will be treated as a faculty member where WPI will cover your patent expenses and the profits will be split 50/50.
  • What if I want to work with a company on my idea or invention? The IPI can provide you with a nondisclosure agreement to allow for you and the company to work with one another on the invention.
  • How will WPI help me market my idea or invention? WPI has developed a unique group called the Tech Advisors Network that the IPI will connect you with to help with marketing your work.