What is intellectual property?


It's any product of the human mind that has commercial value. This can include literary works or a concept for a new tool; for life scientists, this may mean a lab technique or a new small molecule. The courts protect intellectual property with patents and copyrights.

If I'm listed as the inventor on a patent, does that mean I own it?

No, in most cases the inventor's institution – be it a private company, university, or government-run organization – keeps the rights, since it pays the filing and attorney fees. However, if an institution has no plans to capitalize on a patent, a researcher might be able to buy it back.

Researchers generally aren't businesspeople. Is there help out there?

Most individual scientists don't have the time, money, or expertise to write a patent application, afford the filing fees (usually between $5,000–$7,000), and secure a licensing...

How much of the patenting process is the researcher's responsibility?

Scientists should work with their TTO to ensure that their patent application is understandable and accurate. One tech transfer officer says that most ideas today are evolutionary, not revolutionary, so usually researchers must help TT officers reword and resubmit their patent applications to prove their ideas' originality.

How can I increase my chances of getting a patent?

Familiarity with the process helps. Timing is essential: Contact the tech transfer office before the idea is published or publicly discussed. Patenting rights could be forfeited if the idea enters the public domain prior to documentation. Also, the idea for the patent must be recorded, and witnessed. The inventor should write in pen in bound and catalogued notebooks, date and sign pages, and staple in extra materials, such as graphs, printouts, or photos.

- Maria W. Anderson

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