Intellectual Property Clause

Overview

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution grants Congress the enumerated power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." 

Because this clause is also the source of Congress' power to enact legislation governing copyrights and patents, it is often also referred to as the "Patent and Copyright Clause."

Patent Ownership

The Intellectual Property Clause grants ownership of a patent to the inventor of the patent. In Stanford University v. Roche Molecular Systems Inc, 563 U.S. 776 (2011), the Supreme Court held that even when a researcher at a federally funded lab invents a patent, that researcher owns the patent. This is because 

Public Domain

After a copyright expires, it enters the public domain. The Copyright Extension Act of 1998 (CTEA) allows for an author's copyright to last for the life of the author plus 70 years, and for a work of corporate authorship to last 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever end is earlier. In Elder v Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003), the Supreme Court upheld the CTEA, partially under the Intellectual Property Clause. 

Further Reading

For more on the Intellectual Property Clause, see this Georgetown Law Journal article, this Harvard Journal of Law & Technology article, and this University of Chicago Law Review article