Intellectual Property Guidance for Students


As a student or postdoctoral scholar at USC, you have opportunities to create patentable inventions or copyrightable documents or software that may be commercialized and benefit society. These innovations may result from your classes, from extracurricular activities, or from your participation in research or paid projects in collaboration with USC faculty and researchers. This memo is provided to summarize opportunities available to you for commercialization, along with some of your rights and responsibilities.

How Are Innovations Protected?

Innovations that can be protected by patents include new or improved versions of processes, methods, and compositions of matter (e.g., a new drug or a new material) that are useful, new, and not obvious extensions of existing innovations. One or more inventors may contribute to the conception of an invention.

Works of authorship may also be protected through copyrights. These may include books, articles, audio recordings, computer software, photographs, motion pictures, and musical compositions among others. In some cases, software can also lead to patentable inventions.

Patents and copyrights are examples of intellectual property (IP), both of which have commercial value. IP can be the basis for developing commercialized products and therefore generating income. Under USC’s IP policy, creation of IP provides financial benefits to the creators, including students.


Who Owns Patents and Copyrights?

In most cases, students who are not employed by USC own their original academic work. This means that IP resulting from class assignments, or from activities outside of USC, are normally student owned. In addition, copyrightable artistic works, books and articles are jointly owned by the creators (which may include students, faculty and staff). Students and their co-creators are thus free to commercialize such IP independently of the university.

On the other hand, IP (other than art, books and articles) resulting from employment by USC (such as a research assistant, postdoctoral scholar, student worker or staff) or IP resulting from non-class supervised research (compensated or not) are normally owned by USC. In addition, when university resources or research facilities (e.g., computing facilities or specialized research instruments) are used, USC may also own the resulting IP.

If you are unsure whether the University could have an ownership interest in your IP, please contact USC Stevens Center for Innovation for a definitive answer. Visit to learn more.

Below are general examples to guide you when thinking about your IP rights and obligations:

USC likely has IP rights

You probably own IP rights

I invented a product using special equipment in my professor’s lab

I invented a new product in my garage

I wrote a report for my professor’s federally-funded research project

I wrote a journal article for a class assignment

I created software under a USC-sponsored project

I created a new smartphone app at home

I invented a new therapeutic treatment in a USC lab using cells from a commercial source

I created an improvement to an existing product in my dorm room


How Do I Benefit from USC Owned IP?

USC shares a portion of all income derived from the license of IP with inventors/creators. By disclosing IP to the university through the USC Stevens Center and participating in the protection of the IP via patents or copyrights, USC may be able to commercialize your innovations. If successful, you and your co-inventors/creators will be paid based on the licensing income that is generated. Specifics of how income is divided can be found in the USC IP policy;

One benefit of USC employment is that we do not hire students on a “work for hire” basis, meaning you are always entitled to benefits from the IP that you create or jointly create, whether USC owns the IP or whether you own the IP.


How Do I Work with USC to Commercialize IP?

The USC Stevens Center for Innovation represents USC for the commercialization of all USC owned IP. The commercialization process works in these steps:

1) When you have produced USC-owned IP that has potential for commercialization, you and your co-inventors/co-creators should jointly file an “invention disclosure” with the Sophia portal. Click on the disclose link to get started,

answer the questions describing your innovation, list any funding, and identify all inventive contributors. This process can take as little as 15 minutes.

Because student-created IP often results from collaborations with your faculty mentor, it is important for you to consult your mentor prior to filing your invention.

2) USC Stevens Center will evaluate the commercial potential of the disclosure and, if appropriate, manage the protection, marketing and transfer of the innovation to a commercial partner. USC Stevens Center will also ensure compliance with any funding agreements by reporting the invention and utilization to appropriate sponsors.


What Other USC Resources are Available?

USC provides many resources for student inventors/creators, even for cases where the IP is not university owned. These include legal services, mentoring, incubation space, and competitions for funding. Please consult the resources available at for a complete listing of services.

We look forward to working with you.

— USC Stevens Center for Innovation

USC Dornsife alumna’s pulp-based snacks are transforming waste into healthy taste

Environmental studies major Kaitlin Mogentale launched the startup Pulp Pantry a year ago. Photo by Gus Ruelas.
By Eric Lindberg

Mork Family Scholar is revolutionizing how discarded fruit and vegetable pulp from trendy juiceries is used, turning the formerly trashed waste into healthy, high-fiber foods.

As carrot after carrot disappeared into her friend’s countertop juicer, Kaitlin Mogentale stared with her mouth agape at the growing pile of shredded pulp collecting in the device.

The USC Dornsife environmental studies major had visited trendy Los Angeles juice bars many times, but she never realized how much of the fruit and vegetables needed to create her tasty beverage ended up in the trash.

“As a consumer, you don’t see all that waste,” she said. “What if we could use this pulp to create healthy snacks that are high in fiber and nutritional value?”

That moment of realization led Mogentale to launch Pulp Pantry, a startup that uses discarded pulp to create grain-free, high-fiber foods like granola, seed and veggie crisps and baking flours. Although the 24-year-old alumna created the business only a year ago, her products have already landed in select stores.

It’s not exactly the path Mogentale had envisioned when she came to USC Dornsife as an undergraduate who was passionate about environmental justice. She had her sights set on becoming a marine biologist. But exposure to classes in social entrepreneurship and policy and planning shifted her focus toward having a broader impact on society.

She credits the change to her participation in the USC Mork Family Scholars Program, a highly selective scholarship initiative that covers tuition and provides an annual stipend to promising undergraduates at USC.

Great expectations

“They want you to do something extraordinary,” Mogentale said of USC Trustee John Mork and his wife, Julie, who created the program in 2011 with a $110 million donation. “The reason they are giving these scholarships is because they believe these students are going to do something that pushes them to their limits. It created that mindset of ‘always be pushing the limits’ and that I’m really worth something.”

Push the limits Mogentale did. She carried 20 units nearly every semester at USC, trying out subjects like nonprofit management and interning with the Garden School Foundation, a nonprofit that provides hands-on cooking and gardening classes to children in local L.A. schools.

Social entrepreneurship’s forward-looking nature gave Mogentale much-needed optimism, especially since she had popularized the term “ecodepression” among her peers as a way to describe how disheartened she had become about protecting the environment.

“I’m way more of a positive person and I want to be solutions-oriented; I want to be a dreamer,” she said. “I’m just one person, but one person can change the world.”

Wasted fruit and vegetable pulp is one problem that inspired her vocation. Another is the food insecurity and nutrition issues she witnessed at a local elementary school during her Garden School Foundation internship.

Kids ate chips and snack cakes for breakfast, had fried chicken and French fries for lunch, and bought more junk food from street vendors on their way home, Mogentale said. Every meal featured highly processed food with low nutritional value.

“They weren’t used to eating vegetables,” she said. “They’d come into the garden and they’d never seen a fresh carrot or a fresh tomato.”

Food for thought

Mogentale is hopeful that she can build Pulp Pantry into a sustainable brand and gateway to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables. Less than 20 percent of Americans eat their recommended daily allotment of fresh fruits and veggies, she said, and increasing that figure could save billions in medical costs and thousands of lives every year.

For now, Mogentale is focused on perfecting a handful of core products and building her presence in L.A. She is still the main engine of the operation, spending her weekends in a rented kitchen with 40 dehydrators, testing new recipes and combinations of pulp from beets, carrots, almonds, apples and other healthy staples.

She feels lucky to have graduated with no student debt thanks to the Mork Family Scholarship, a luxury she knows many people don’t have when leaving college.

“I was so blessed to have that peace of mind,” Mogentale said. “Now I can actually focus on building my business and putting money into that effort.”

She is also hoping to give back to USC, returning to campus to participate in panel discussions and sharing the lessons she has learned so far. Mogentale doesn’t view herself as a success story — she admits she is still making mistakes — but the message she stresses when giving advice to students is to build self-confidence and be comfortable with not having all the answers.

“Don’t graduate and think you have to be the expert in anything or know what your dream job is right away,” she said. “Own this time as your period of questioning.”

Free Workshop on Apple’s ARKit

Want to get started creating AR content for iOS?

This free presentation on Tuesday is for you!

Event:   Apple ARKit Workshop
When:  Tuesday, October 24, 2017 from 9:00 – 11:00 am
Where:   Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (ANN Room L105 – lower level auditorium)

Agenda:    Developing AR Experiences for iPhone and iPad. This session will explore ARKit, a new framework in iOS 11 that allows developers to easily create augmented reality (AR) experiences for iPhone and iPad. AR describes user experiences that add 2D or 3D elements to the live view from a device’s camera in a way that makes those elements appear to inhabit the real world. By fusing together camera sensor data and motion tracking data, ARKit provides the high-precision world tracking needed to blend digital objects and information with the physical environment. The 90-minute presentation will provide a high-level overview of ARKit, techniques to place 3D content in the camera view using iOS SceneKit, and developer resources to get started. There will be approximately 30 minutes for Q&A.

About the speaker:   Trevor Sheridan is an engineer on Apple’s Consulting Engineering team. He spends his time working on new ideas and solving problems for Apple’s customers in enterprise and education. With over 10 years of programming experience, Trevor has spent the last 3 at Apple where he’s enjoyed working on some exciting projects. Prior to joining consulting engineering, he worked on researching and developing experimental software for Apple’s Product Management group. While he’s devoted much of his career to developing on Apple’s platforms he also has a keen interest in machine learning, electrical engineering, and 3D graphics.

[ Limited availability! ]

Synchrotron at USC Viterbi Startup Garage

The Synchrotron Program is a 10-week long educational incubator program housed at the USC Viterbi Startup Garage in Marina del Rey.  Startup founders gain valuable insights about fundraising, legal proceedings, team dynamics, and other essential topics needed to build a successful company.  Teams have access to shared workspace, private meeting rooms, and mentorship from a deep network of investors and entrepreneurs.  Companies in this program are typically technology-focused with some evidence of customer validation.

What we do:

  • Provide residence at the Startup Garage during the duration of the program
  • Hands on education, mentoring and coaching
  • Access to an extensive network of investors and advisors
  •  Path to Full Residency status at the Viterbi Startup Garage
  •  Consideration for the Viterbi Venture Fund

What we do not do:

  • No funding is provided to the teams
  • No equity is taken from the companies
  • Companies must have either USC or IN-LA affiliation
  • Founders must be able to attend the weekly workshops in Marina del Rey

Viterbi Innovation Competition Opportunities

ABC Innovation Undergraduate Prize (ABC)

Calling all undergraduate students! Do you have an innovate idea to solve a problem? Learn how to take your idea to product. Apply in one or more of the three categories – atoms (physical), bits (digital), and cells (biomedical). Teams can be composed of 1 to 5 members. Throughout the academic year, you will have access to free mentors, workshops, and other support. Final presentations will be held in April 2018, and the winning team in each category will receive $1,000. Applications are due on Sunday, November 5, 2017. For more information, visit


Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition (MEPC)

Do you want to take your idea/research to market? To apply, you will need to provide a short business model summary and market opportunity. Selected teams will be given $500 for customer discovery and work with industry mentors. Final presentations will be held in April 2018 where teams will compete for a $50,000 Grand Prize! Applications are due on Tuesday, October 31, 2017. For more information, visit


Min Family Engineering Social Entrepreneurship Challenge (MFC)

Do you want to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey? Top teams developing a sustainable venture to enhance relief efforts will receive field research and prototyping funds, as well as work with social entrepreneur mentors and learn about building sustainable enterprises! You are invited to a special talk on disaster relief with Major Ashok Deb on Thursday, October 12, at 4:30 pm in RTH 526. This information session will be followed by a networking event for students interested in forming teams. Applications are due on Sunday, November 12, 2017. For more information, visit


Trina Gregory

Senior Lecturer, ITP

Viterbi School of Engineering

University of Southern California

Reuters Ranks USC #20 Most Innovative University

USC judged to be 20th most innovative university in the nation.

A private research university based in Los Angeles, USC has strong ties to Hollywood and significant expertise in the area of digital entertainment, though the university says it also boasts the largest computer science research program of any university in the nation, as well as the largest engineering and health programs of any private university. The university’s Institute for Creative Technologies studies how people engage with technology through virtual characters and simulations, and collaborates with studios including Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop ever more realistic computer-generated characters in movies. USC’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts is the country’s only entirely digital filmmaking training facility. And USC’s technology transfer center, the Stevens Center for Innovation, has spun out a number of entertainment startups, including LightStage LLC, which has created visual effects for films including ‘Avatar’ and ‘King Kong.’

Read our bio from Reuters here!

ASU Innovation Open

Dear entrepreneurship colleagues,

Thanks again for engaging with us last year as we kicked off the inaugural ASU Innovation Open.

Here’s a recap.

With another $100K grand prize up for grabs, plus another $95K earmarked for semi-finalists and runners-up, we hope that you’ll share the following opportunity with your best undergrad and grad-led tech startups:

 ASU Innovation Open

Who: All top student-led startup founders are encouraged to apply.

What: An opportunity to win $100K+ and bragging rights, along with other  prizes – including VIP experiences at the Phoenix Open.

Where: Apply here. Travel to Phoenix/ Scottsdale is not required for applicants.

When: Apply by Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST.

Questions: Email

As always, we appreciate your collaboration. As we push toward the October 29 deadline, please feel free to update your contact information on our collaborator contact sheet here.

After receiving some stellar student applications from California Institute of Technology, Cal Lutheran, Cuesta College, George Washington, Loyola Marymount, Oregon State, University of Arizona, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, University of Denver, and University of Utah last year, we hope to engage further this year.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call or text me directly at 480-353-8132.

Yours in service,


Brent Sebold, Ed.D.

Arizona State University

Contrary Capital is your Startup’s Newest Asset for Funding and Beyond

Here at USC, we all know someone who is working on a startup. Irrespective of degree or department, students and faculty at USC are working everyday to develop solutions to a multitude of relevant problems. Perhaps you may be working on one yourself.

The truth is, the Trojan entrepreneurial ecosystem is incredibly strong, and students all across our campus are building businesses with truly amazing potential. But as each of you knows, building a business is hard.

That’s why I’m happy to announce an incredible new resource to add to your toolbelt. Contrary Capital brings the best in business to help scale the challenges that hinder your business’s growth.

Contrary Capital is a fully independent, university focused venture fund driven by student investors at 40+ colleges across the nation. Backed by founders such as Dan Macklin of SoFi, Martin Eberhard of Tesla and Emmett Shear of Twitch, 80%  of our limited partners have started $1B+ tech companies over the past decade.

Contrary announced their official public launch on Monday September 18th with an inaugural fund size projected to fall between $5 million and $7 million

Here are a few quick bullets to summarize our value:

  • We’re totally independent and returns-focused. If funded, we’ll connect you with top-tier VCs that fit you best.
  • We have an expansive network you can tap into for diverse talent, customers, and advice.
  • With a check size ranging between $50k-$200k in YC style standardized valuation buckets, we have the flexibility to accommodate you at a crucial stage in your growth.

Feel free to contact us any time at We would love to meet with you to see what you’re working on or answer any questions you may have.


Fight on!

Zach Sullens and Rishi Thomas

Stevens Student Innovator Showcase

Info from:

Join us Friday, October 13, 2017, 9AM-3PM at USC’s University Park Campus (AHF building) for the 11th Annual USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. Everyone is welcome to attend and watch the competition, talk to the startup teams, hear the keynote address, and vote for their favorite project to win the Trojan Family Choice Award. No pre-registration is required to attend our event.

During the daylong event held at USC’s University Park Campus, student teams present and pitch their startup ideas and prototypes to expert judges from the entrepreneur and investment communities as well as Trojan Family Weekend attendees to compete for cash awards that can help to develop their ideas further. The most promising innovative student teams are selected as finalists to participate in an afternoon fast pitch round featuring 3 minute business pitches by each team to a panel of esteemed  judges, and an awards ceremony for the winners.

Showcase schedule (subject to change):
October 13, 2017 

9AM-11AM: Student Innovator Showcase (24 teams)
11AM-12PM: Lunch provided to the competing teams
12PM-12:45PM: Keynote guest speaker (name to be announced)
12:45PM-2:30PM: Finalists announced & Finalist Fast Pitch Round (10 teams)
2:30PM-3PM: Announcement of Winners and Awards Ceremony

QUESTIONS? Contact Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens Marketing Coordinator at

Startup Career Fair – Hosted by SparkSC

Our mission is to connect talent on campus with the hottest startups in Los Angeles and beyond.

  • 25+ Startups
  • Full-Time and Internship Positions
  • Tuesday, October 3rd, 10 AM – 2 PM in Pardee Lawn

At the Startup Career Fair, you will:

  • Recruit efficiently – just by showing up you will have access to top tier engineering, business, and design students.

  • Save thousands of dollars- our entrance fee is only $300 (the money goes to covering our set up costs).

  • Build a relationship with the USC community by distributing swag, promoting your product, and showing students why your company is a great place to work.

  • Hire for both internship and full-time positions.

Come see us on October 3rd from 10AM to 2PM!