Terms & Definitions

Intellectual Property (IP)

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that refers to intangible creations of human intellect and the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images. The most-known types of intellectual property are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. However, in relation to collegiate sports, NIL is nothing but intellectual property. Student-athlete’s IP includes their Name, Image, and Likeness. Ensuring proper legal protection for a student-athelete’s brand is paramount.

Can a student-athlete profit off of their intellectual property?

As of June 30, 2021, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, II, and III sports adopted an interim policy allowing student-athletes to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness, also known as their personal brand and personal IP. All student-athletes across the country, including NJCAA and NAIA athletes can now earn money from their social media accounts or participating in advertising.

Does a school’s brand extend to their student-athletes?

It is still the early days of NIL regulation and colleges and universities are split on whether to allow its student-athletes to use the institution’s intellectual property. A school’s IP includes things such as logos, the mascot, and jerseys. Schools may fear that if a student-athlete, for example, appears in a commercial wearing their school jersey that not only is the student-athlete endorsing the product, but that the school is also approving it. However, if a school denies all use of it’s IP or makes the conditions of use too stringent, students and parents may choose not to attend these institutions. Schools that do allow use of it’s intellectual property often have restrictions. Since the implementaiton of NIL regulation, schools are working to provide training on how student-athletes can appropriately use the institution’s branding on social media and in NIL activities.

How can a student-athlete build their IP or personal brand?

One way for a student-athlete to build on their intellectual property and personal brand is to trademark their name or catch-phrases. Trademarking their name allows the student-athlete to control how their name is used and to defend against unauthorized use of their names as well. Trademarking a catch-phrase or slogan gives the student-athlete the exclusive right to profit from the slogan and control its use.

Lyle Adams


Lyle was a member of the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship team at Wake Forest. After embarking on a professional soccer career, Lyle transitioned to the tech industry, where he was one of the first 100 employees at Uber, designing platforms and tools for data consumers. Lyle also holds a Master’s in Sports Management from Columbia University.