Transfer Pricing Associates

IP Specifics for the Education Industry


The education industry has many types of intangibles.  Different from industries such as pharmaceuticals, which uses patents to exploit the economic benefits of the intellectual property, the education industry gains profits through the development of human capital.  Another important intangible of education industry is intellectual capital, which is the accumulation of scientific knowledge, business and financial know-how, and artistic accomplishments.  Based on the definition given by the USPTO, these activities listed below are intangibles prevalent in the education industry:

The value of education is created through the teaching process, research in universities, studies, and cooperation between teachers and the students. The IP generated through these processes can be categorized into three main groups: patents, copyrights and know-how.


There is a growing trend of cooperation between universities and companies in research and development. The intellectual property developed through the process can be registered as a patent based on their relevant areas. According to the USPTO, new ways of demonstrating and teaching can be registered as a patent. For example, class 473 contains devices that have an educational effect, benefit or value. More information can be found at:


Academic papers demonstrate the newest research developments of the author. According to U.S. copyright law, any newly written article is automatically protected without any registration needed. The creator of the work is the owner of all copyright interests in the work, however, copyright law does not protect the ideas of the work from being copied. For example, a written description of new teaching methods cannot be copied, but the underlying method is allowed to be used by other people if it is not patented.


In the education industry, know-how can be considered as ways of teaching, different understanding of the subjects and so on. It is hard to protect know-how in the education industry since it is usually not written in contracts and is developed through years of experience. As discussed earlier, copyright law can only protect the written words from being copied, not the idea. Know-how can, however, be protected when it is embedded within trade secrets or patents.