Depending on the jurisdiction, there are four or five basic intellectual property rights. These include patents, copyrights, trademarks, design rights, and trade secrets.  In return for disclosure, a government gives you a temporary monopoly on the concept, work of art or creation.

Student entrepreneurs should learn about intellectual property in order to protect their inventions and creations. However, simply protecting IP doesn’t mean that a venture will be successful by any stretch of of the imagination. Rather, what matters much more is the need or want of the market for such a solution. Allocating resources such as time and money early in a venture’s life to such IP protection as a patent is a strategic decision that may or may not be worth it. Indeed, the game is risky, and usually there is a tradeoff between protection and speed, as well as a lack of resources, so that careful consideration is needed for allocating them.

Student entrepreneurs should check their university’s intellectual property policy and program first and early on — in the idea stage of the venture life cycle, ideally. If there is a technology transfer office (TTO), this is a good place to start. Otherwise, it may take some digging to find the policy, which is most cases will be written down on a document somewhere.  In most universities, undergraduates will own 100% of the IP they create, despite their scholarship or studentship funding status. In many institutions, research masters, PhD and Post-doctoral students own 100% of their IP; however, this is not the case in all of them and can very by the research funding agreement. Some institutions may own 50% of the student’s intellectual property, and some even more than this piece of the pie, depending.

Another reason for students to explore the IP policy and program is that some universities will offer support or funding to students for the protection of their intellectual property, often in return for the opportunity to be positively associated with the startup or exploitation of this IP.  Again, usually this is handled by the technology transfer office, which we describe in more detail in our “Resources” section.

Below we have provided some useful overviews, presentations, links to government sites, and recommended books as well. Please consider purchasing them through the site as well.


In the USA, there are four basic IP rights. These include trademarks, patents, and copyrights. The fourth, trade secrets, is not a government-protected right that is filed centrally. Rather, it is a practice.

Entrepreneur Magazine article on the basics of intellectual property in the USA.


World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Recommended books: