Things You Need to Know

What is a patent?
I am a student or employee at the university.  Do I have to report to the university any patentable inventions that I make?
How do I report an invention?
How does the university calculate how much income is shared with inventors?
What is a copyright?
How does a copyright come into existence?
Who owns the copyrights on my work?
What is a confidentiality agreement?
When do I need a confidentiality agreement?
How do I put a confidentiality agreement in place?
Who signs confidentiality agreements?
What is a material transfer agreement?
When do I need a material transfer agreement?
How do I put a material transfer agreement in place?

What is a patent?

A patent is a legal document issued by the government that includes a set of sentences called “claims” that provide a description of an invention;  the issuance of the patent gives the owner of the patent the legal right to prevent anyone else from making, using, or selling anything that meets that description.  Patents generally last for a period of twenty years from the date on which the original application for the patent was filed.

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I am a student or employee at the university.  Do I have to report to the university any patentable inventions that I make?

All students and employees of the university are required by the policies of the UNC system, as a condition of enrollment or employment, to report to the university any inventions made in the course of their employment, made in the course of their studies at the university, or made using any resources of the university.  The university claims an ownership interest in any such invention.  It is a good idea to also report any other inventions made while a student or an employee so that the university can formally acknowledge that it does not claim any ownership interest in such inventions.

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How do I report an invention?

The best way to report an invention is to fill out an invention report form, sign it, and return it to the Office of Technology Transfer, at 228 PORTAL Building.

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How does the university calculate how much income is shared with inventors?

The university shares with inventors a portion of the income that it receives from inventions.  The proportion of the income shared with the inventors depends on the amount of income received and the exact proportions are set out in Section E of the university’s Patent Policy .  If there are multiple inventors involved on a single patent application the amount allocated to the inventors will be split evenly unless all the inventors agree otherwise in writing.

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What is a copyright?

A copyright is a right granted by the government to prevent others from copying or performing a “work of authorship.”  Copyrights can be granted on many different types of works including books, articles, recordings, choreography, software programs, architectural designs, and boat hulls.

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How does a copyright come into existence?

A copyright is created under state laws as soon as an original work is set forth in a tangible medium, such as on paper, on a compact disk, or in computer memory.  In addition, a copyright may be obtained from the US federal government by submitting copies of the work to the copyright office along with completed forms and the appropriate fees.  Obtaining a federal copyright provides the copyright owner with many legal advantages if the owner expects that he or she will ever have grounds to sue another party for copying or performing the copyrighted work.

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Who owns the copyrights on my work?

For university employees and students the ownership of copyrights depends on your status at the time the work was made.  In most cases, EPA employees such as faculty will own copyrights in the works that they create unless they are notified in advance that the university will claim the works.  Similarly, in most cases students will own the copyrights for works that they make in performance of their studies.  In both of these cases the creators will be deemed to have given the university a royalty-free license to copy and/or perform the copyrighted work in the performance of the university’s research and teaching activities.  Works made by SPA employees (i.e., employees who are subject to North Carolina’s State Personnel Act) are considered to be “works for hire” and are owned by the university.

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What is a confidentiality agreement?

A confidentiality agreement – sometimes called a non-disclosure agreement or “NDA” – is an agreement between two parties under which one party provides the other with information that both parties agree to maintain in secrecy.  Confidentiality agreements usually restrict the ways in which the receiving party may use the other party’s confidential information.

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When do I need a confidentiality agreement?

Confidentiality agreements should be put in place before any confidential or sensitive information is exchanged between university personnel and outside parties.  When university personnel and outside parties plan to do work together that involves the use of confidential information it is best to put a confidentiality agreement in place prior to sharing any confidential information or developing a description of the work to be done.

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How do I put a confidentiality agreement in place?

Contact the Office of Technology Transfer at 228 PORTAL Building, 704-687-8013, for assistance in putting any confidentiality agreements in place.

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Who signs confidentiality agreements?

Very few individuals have the right to sign confidential information on behalf of the university.  Students, faculty, and deans usually cannot do so.  Most confidentiality agreements are signed by the Executive Director or the Senior Associate Executive Director of the Office of Technology Transfer.  A person who claims to sign a confidentiality agreement on behalf of the university but who is not specifically authorized to do so may be personally liable for any damages resulting from a breach of the agreement.

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What is a material transfer agreement?

A material transfer agreement (“MTA”) is an agreement under which the university gives or receives material (such as laboratory animals, cell lines, or research equipment) without transferring ownership of that material. The MTA specifies things such as how the material can be used, who can use it, what happens to it once the permitted uses are complete, whether any payment is required, and who is responsible for any damages that result from the use of the material.

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When do I need a material transfer agreement?

MTA’s should be put into place well before material is transferred so that it is clear to everyone as to who is responsible for the shipment and maintenance of the material.

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How do I put a material transfer agreement in place?

Contact the Office of Technology Transfer at the 228 PORTAL Building, 704-687-8018, for assistance in putting any material transfer agreements in place.

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