Office of
Research Services

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is any idea, invention or process that you create.

Protect your intellectual property

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outlines four ways to protect intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.


A U.S. patent gives inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention for a limited time. Patents can be awarded to a material, a process, a new use of an existing material or an improvement on an existing technology, so long as it can be demonstrated to be new, useful and not obvious to other professionals in the field.

Patents provide rights for up to 20 years for inventions in these categories:

  1. Utility patents protect useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture and compositions of matter.
  2. Design patents guard the unauthorized use of new, original and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture.
  3. Plant patents are the way we protect invented or discovered, asexually reproduced plant varieties.


Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services. Unlike patents, trademarks can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in business.


Copyrights protect the form of expression, but not the subject matter of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work.

A copyright gives the owner exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Create derivative works
  • Distribute copies of the copyrighted work
  • Perform the copyright work publicly
  • Display the copyrighted work publicly

The Library of Congress registers copyrights, which last the life of the author plus 50 years.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors.

UMKC and intellectual property

UMKC is substantially supported by the public, including the majority of its research programs. The public deserves maximum return for its investment in research through publication of results, sharing of expertise with students and others, and transfer of technologies to companies for commercialization.

Many university inventors report great satisfaction in seeing their research efforts result in practical benefits to society. Many also find that the increased contact with industry improves the relevance of teaching programs and increases students' chances for internships and employment.

Bayh-Dole Act

Enacted into law on Dec. 12, 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act allows inventions that result from federally funded research to be owned and patented by universities rather than immediately passing into the public domain.

While the universities own the inventions and can exclusively license them, there are many reporting requirements implemented by Bayh-Dole to ensure that the university is protecting patent rights and making the technologies available to the public.