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FAQs About Inventions And Patents

1. What is a Patent?

A patent is a grant of rights by a government. It gives the owner of an invention a limited monopoly – the right to exclude others from making, using or selling it for a period of time. In most countries including the US, this period is 20 years from the date of filing. For US patent filed before June 8, 1995, it is 20 years from filing or 17 years from date of issue, whichever is longer. Just because you obtain a patent doesn’t necessarily mean that you can practice it. There may be other patents that dominate yours.

2. Is there more than one type of Patent?

Yes, there are 3 types of patents: utility (most common), design and plant patents. Utility patents protect the functional aspects of an invention and are considered more valuable than design patents which only protect the ornamental appearance of an article, not its structural or functional features. Plant patents protect new varieties of plants.

3. What types of inventions can be protected by a utility patent?

Any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.

4. What is an Invention?

Idea or concept and reduction to practice.

5. What makes an invention patentable?

There are four criteria that must be met. The invention must be novel, useful, non-obvious and enabled.

6. What is meant by novelty?

The invention must be new – no public disclosure, offer for sale, or public use. In the US the patent office allows a one-year grace period following public disclosure to file a patent application. However, in most other countries there is no grace period. If you publish first you lose the opportunity to obtain foreign patent rights.

7. What is meant by public disclosure?

Any of the following constitute a public disclosure, providing it is enabling: publication in a scientific journal (when actually published), published abstract, poster presentation, internet publication, dissertation available from University Microfilms, thesis or dissertation in university library, email or oral disclosure to people outside your institution, if not under a secrecy (or non-disclosure agreement).

8. Who is an inventor?

The inventors are those who made a creative contribution to at least one of the issued claims – not a “pair of hands.” Inventorship is defined under patent law. Sometimes inventorship can’t be determined until the patent issues because the claims may change during prosecution (if for example certain claims get disallowed).

9. Who owns your patent?

A US patent application must be filed in the name of the inventor(s). However, Louisiana State University System Intellectual Property and Shared Royalty Policy (FS III.VI.-1) and Tech University Intellectual Property Policy (7112) require that you assign the invention to the University.

10. If two people make the same invention, who gets the patent?

In most countries, priority goes to the first to file a patent application. In the US, priority goes to the first to invent, provided he/she continued to diligently work on the invention. While this is favorable to the first inventor is often hard to prove unless good records have been maintained.

11. Why should I report my discoveries?

Patents make it worthwhile for companies to invest in commercial development. Company participation can mean research dollars for your laboratory. Without corporate involvement, most ideas will never be put into practice. If the research was sponsored with federal grant then there is an obligation under Bayh-Dole to report the invention to OIPC. Fame and fortune are a possibility. Louisiana Tech University has a very generous royalty sharing policy with their faculty inventors.

October 17th, 2018

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