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VCOM Carolinas Campus

Process for Patenting an Invention

Disclosure Assessment

Within one week of receipt, each disclosure is evaluated for commercial potential and patentability.  This process may take up to a month. Factors we consider in evaluating the potential of an invention include:

  • Is it novel and nonobvious?
  • Can it teach a person with ordinary skill in the art how to make or use the invention (enabled)?
  • Is it at risk of public disclosure or invention by others?
  • Is it commercially valuable?

This review process includes a prior art search and may include requests for additional input from inventors and/or consultation with patent attorneys.

With input from inventors, an assessment of patentability is performed by technology licensing officers in consultation with patent attorneys and/or literature search specialists. Your technology licensing officer will contact you to determine the next steps, whether that is filing a patent or not.

Unless additional information from the inventors is needed, an initial recommendation report will be sent to the inventors within a month of the ORI receiving the disclosure. This report will recommend whether or not a provisional patent application should be filed with the US PTO. This decision is based on the criteria listed above as well as the commercial potential of an invention:

  • Problems solved or unmet needs addressed by the technology,
  • Potential applications,
  • Market size,
  • Potential competitors/partners,
  • Potential challenges to patenting and commercialization.

Provisional Patent Application

A provisional application is not evaluated by USPTO. A provisional application gives VCOM a year from the date of initial filing to evaluate the commercial interest in the technology and possibly market the invention. During this time, the ORI will work with the patent attorney to continue assessing the invention’s patentability, marketability, and commercialization potential.

It is expected that the inventors will continue to advance the invention in preparation for a patent application filing and to cooperate in commercializing the invention. If there is no further technical development or no potential licensees or commercial interest, it may be difficult to justify further investment in patenting the invention.


Non-Provisional Patent

If the decision is made to move forward in the process, ORI will coordinate a meeting with the patent attorney and inventors to discuss any updates from the inventor and the strategy for patent submission. This discussion will take place several months before the one-year deadline to ensure a robust application is filed.

A US utility patent application is one that offers protection only in the United States and is the application type most filed by VCOM. In some instances, an international application (PCT) may be filed, which preserves the right for an applicant to file in more than 150 countries. If the invention is a medical device, a US Design patent application may also be filed along with the Utility application. These patents protect the “ornamental design of a functional item” but do not protect the structure or utilitarian features (what the Utility protects).