Types of IP

There are several types of intellectual property that ITA manages



Patents protect new, non-obvious, and useful inventions.

+ The Basics

Under a patent, the government grants the patent holder a right to exclude others from manufacturing, using, or selling products incorporating the invention for a limited time, in exchange for fully disclosing the invention to the public. The term of a patent in the US is 20 years from the date of filing. Patents are complex and expensive forms of intellectual property. A typical US life sciences patent can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 and take 3-5 years to obtain. The foreign counterparts of such patents can cost significantly more. You can learn more about patents by visiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website or by taking an IP course through ITA.

+ The Process

If you have an invention or technology that you think is new, exciting and has potential as a commercial product or application, contact us. We want to hear more about your ideas and results, even before you have definitive data. We can help guide you on key information needed to support a patent application and walk you through the disclosure process. If UCSF elects to pursue patent protection for your invention, ITA is the UCSF entity responsible for filing and managing the patent applications and any issued patents that may arise.

Once ITA receives a new invention disclosure, an ITA Licensing Expert will work with the inventor(s) to assess the patentability and potential commercial of the disclosed invention.

If it appears that filing a patent is important for commercializing an invention, the Licensing Expert will work with a qualified outside patent attorney to determine the best strategy for filing a patent application. Developing a patent application is a multi-step process and you, as the inventors, are critical to this process. Patent prosecution – the process by which a patent application is examined by the USPTO – can take several years before a patent is finally issued. This process is long, complex, and often expensive. Clear and strategic management of this process is essential. Strong IP protection, whether it be patent rights, property rights, copyrights, know-how or a mix of these, is essential to successful commercialization of most technologies.

For more information about patents, see our Patent FAQs.

Software, Applications & Copyrights

ITA manages the licensing of UCSF-generated software (including apps) and copyrights to external entities. Copyrighted work can include both written works and software.

Some examples include: Drawings • Books • Instructional manuals • Questionnaires • Surveys • Patient evaluation tools • Educational tools • Visual aids • Presentations • Web-based tools • Software • Apps More...

If you are a UCSF inventor and you have developed software or another copyrighted piece of work that you believe has commercial value, we want to work with you. To get started, contact us. You might also fill out a disclosure form ahead of time to facilitate your conversation.

For more detailed information about the University of California’s policies on copyright, see here.

+ Copyright Protection

Copyrights, unlike patents, do not require a formal application process. As soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, it is protected under copyright law. The time period of copyright protection is the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. In some rare situations, it may be preferable to register copyrights with The Library of Congress. ITA can advise on this on a case-by-case basis.

Library of Congress forms and additional information on copyright are available here: http://www.copyright.gov/

All UCSF copyrighted material should be marked: c____(year created) The Regents of the University of California.

+ Open Source Software

While we do not manage open source software licenses, contact ITA so that we can advise you on the different options for open source licensing and the use of appropriate copyright notice.

Research Tools

Research tools or “tangible research property” are physical materials used primarily for laboratory research and discovery. More...

Some examples of research tools include: Cell lines • Transgenic models • Expression vectors • Antibodies for laboratory use

UCSF makes these research tools available to researchers at non-profit institutions using material transfer agreements (MTAs) and to companies through non-exclusive license agreements.

MTAs protect the University from liability and ensure that our investigators get credit for providing these valuable research tools. Researchers who receive a request to share their research tools with people or companies outside of UCSF should contact ITA or send ITA an MTA request so we can help you facilitate the transfer and sharing of materials necessary to conduct the desired research.


A trademark is a brand name.  ITA manages trademarks for all services and products that pertain to an inventor’s work at UCSF, other than UC logos and any trademarks using the UCSF name (for those inquiries please contact University Relations: policies-UR@ucsf.edu),

A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, or any combination, used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.  You may not need to register a trademark in order to successfully use it under “common law” in the United States.  To learn more about trademarks, visit the USPTO website or contact our office and a licensing professional will be in touch to discuss this with you.