Tech Commercialization 101

Tech Commercialization 101


What is intellectual property?

Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are legal methods of protecting different forms of intellectual property. The commercialization process involves contractually licensing the legal rights they convey to commercialization partners, usually in return for payments.

The mechanics of obtaining and enforcing intellectual property are a significant part of the expertise of the Polsky Science and Technology team and its service providers (including external attorneys).


  • Patents protect new, nonobvious, and useful inventions. In exchange for disclosing the invention to the public, the government grants the patent owner the right to exclude others from the manufacture, use, or sale of the invention.


  • Copyrights protect the specific expression of ideas, rather than the ideas themselves. Copyright gives the holder the exclusive right to reproduce, modify, and distribute copies of the work, among other rights.


What licensing revenues are shared with researchers?

For patented inventions or inventions with a patent pending: 25% of revenues (e.g., royalties, license fees, stock sales) are paid to inventors. If there is more than one inventor, the revenue is split equally among them unless they agree to an alternative arrangement. In addition, 10% of revenues are paid to the inventors’ lab(s), 5% to their department(s) and 5% to their division(s).

For non-patented inventions (for example, certain software or tangible materials): researchers may elect to not receive a personal share at all, and instead direct 85% of the gross revenues to a University research account, up to a cumulative gross revenue of $500,000. The remainder of the revenues help cover the budget of the Polsky Center, including the costs of obtaining intellectual property.

More details are available in the University’s Revenue Share Policy.


What is the role of the researcher in the marketing and licensing process?

Often, a researcher’s technology is licensed to a company that has a preexisting relationship (formal or informal) with the researcher.

When this is not true, in some cases the researcher is in the best position to suggest a list of potential commercialization partners.

Additionally, the Polsky Center’s Technology Marketing team will use industry intelligence platforms to identify potential partners and conduct technology marketing outreach. If and when a partner is identified, the Polsky Center will keep the investigator informed as the licensing process proceeds.The Polsky Center’s Science and Technology team and University Research Administration work closely together on agreements with external parties.


  • The Polsky Center manages the intellectual property rights of the University and is responsible for the negotiation of or assistance with:
    • License Agreements
    • Option Agreements
    • Outgoing Materials Transfer Agreements to for-profit entities
    • New Company Formation
    • Confidentiality Agreements (associated with inventions disclosed to the Polsky Center)
    • Inter-institutional Agreements (IP management and revenue sharing between institutions)


What if I want to form a startup?

The Polsky Center has more than two decades’ worth of experience in launching and scaling new startup ventures. Born out of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Polsky Center applies world-class business expertise and leverages an extensive network of venture capital investors to launch startups out of the University of Chicago. Launching a startup can be an effective way to raise money to develop a technology. The Polsky Center works closely with faculty to help them launch startups that are based on University intellectual property, whether created by internal or external entrepreneurs.


  • University Research Administration (URA) is the authoritative office for developing, negotiating, and coordinating research-related:
    • Sponsored Research Agreements
    • Material Transfer Agreements except those outgoing to for-profit entities
    • Software Transfer Agreements
    • Clinical Studies Agreements
    • Compliance
    • Subcontracts
    • Data Use Agreements
    • Confidentiality Agreements (associated with non invention related research)
    • Conflict-of-interest matters

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