Frequently Asked Questions about Intellectual Property
I'm a student in the Inventors Program now. Who owns the intellectual property that's developing as a result of my experience in this?
You own what intellectual property (patentable inventions, copyrights in software or otherwise, trade secrets, etc.) you brought to class with you. No one has claim to anything you brought to class.
You and your team collaborators also own any intellectual property developed during class, unless it is a derivative work of protected intellectual property.
As a student in the Inventors Program, do I have any obligations to others if I try to take an idea to market?
You and your team members need to disclose to each other and your project sponsor if you have given any intellectual property/licensing rights to any company you’ve worked at for inventions you make at school.
If any of you decide to start a company based on work done in the class, you have the right to use the work that you completed in the class, but you may not necessarily have the right to use any work done by your classmates before or after the class is completed. You have no obligations to your classmates for work you have done before or after the class is completed.
Let's say some of us want to take our invention to market but others don't. What then?
As co-owners of intellectual property developed during the class, you each grant a royalty-free license to the rest of your team collaborators to use any intellectual property developed by your team during the class. So if a subset of the team decides to start a company based on the work done in the class, they do NOT owe anything to any other team members for such work. All team members are free to start the same company, without permission of the others (though we would hope that a modicum of common sense and fairness would come into play).
By taking this class you have agreed to these terms with your team. You may decide to modify these terms before the class by having all team members agree in writing.
I am not in the class yet, but I have an existing idea for a real company that I'd like to own myself. Should I take this class to get feedback on my planned company?
Probably not. Anything you do and learn in the class is public. Your slides, notes and findings will all be publicly shared. Your team owns everything done in class. Discuss intellectual property rights with your team from the beginning. If you can’t come to agreement with the team, join another team, pick another project, or drop the class.
Will my intellectual property rights be protected when I discuss my ideas with the class?
NO. This is an open class. There are no non-disclosures. All your presentations and customer discovery and validation notes, business models, blogs and slides can—and most likely will—be made public. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same type of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs.
Keep in mind that successful companies are less about the original idea and more about the learning, discovery and execution. (That’s the purpose of this class.) Therefore you must be prepared to share your ideas openly with the class. It is a forum for you to bounce your ideas off of your peers.
I’m not comfortable sharing my ideas or customer research with others. What should I do?
Don’t take this class. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same type of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs.