University of Southern California


Fulfilling our Commitments, Increasing Our Impact Through Commercialization

USC Faculty,

The University of Southern California has a long history of research that translates into public benefits.   We were instrumental in developing the Internet and Digital Cinema through standards creation; catalyzing virtual reality for consumers through open source and public domain relationships; and commercializing USC inventions that enabled the creation of vibrant organic-light-emitting-diode displays, the artificial retina for restoration of sight, and materials for more durable artificial joint replacements.  These and other USC Innovations are highlighted at the USC Featured Innovations page and the Stevens Center for Innovation brochure.

Ethical Considerations Arising from Business Relationships

Technology transfer also sometimes entails the establishment of new businesses that further develop technology created at USC.   When such start-up companies include the participation of faculty, students or staff, we must be particularly careful to fulfill the principles of our Code of Ethics, which include prompt and open disclosure of conflicts of interest; Faculty Handbook, which includes unrestricted scholarly dissemination of the results of research and limitation of outside consulting to not more than one day per week; and Intellectual Property Policy, which requires prompt disclosure of potentially patentable inventions to the Stevens Center for Innovation and assignment of all inventions governed by the IP policy to USC.   These core values and expectations complement USC’s simultaneous commitment to a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and ensure USC’s continued compliance with federal law for all federally funded inventions and discoveries.


What Are Our Specific Obligations?

Upon disclosure, the Office of Compliance will determine who is responsible for reviewing the potential conflict.  Disclosures by healthcare providers under the Relationships with Industry Policy are automatically routed to the discloser’s department for review.

For federally funded research, the obligation to disclose is not just a matter of USC policy, but also necessary to satisfy law.

Exceptions are provided in the policy for specified types of student work and for faculty authored publications, art works and compositions. To clarify, student work for which they are compensated by USC or which is subject to the terms of a grant or funding agreement must be disclosed to USC pursuant to USC’s IP policy.

Upon disclosure through Sophia, a licensing associate at the Stevens Center will contact the discloser to assess whether the invention is USC owned or not and to discuss the best pathwayfor commercialization, reaching a decision within 30 days of submission of the complete invention disclosure.  A successful license provides for sharing of revenues with inventors.


Guidance, Support and Advice  

USC’s Schools have been very successful at offering educational programs, events, and competitions that advance entrepreneurship and innovation.  These activities are described at   However, staff in particular must take care to not overreach their responsibility.   While school staff should remind inventors and investigators to be mindful of policy, their roles are limited by the following:

Please direct all questions related to these policies to: