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Intellectual Property Basics

Intellectual property describes creations of the mind. These take the form of artistic and literary works, scientific discoveries like new organisms or forms of matter, inventions, computer programs, commercially used symbols and names among other things. Legally they are the property of their creators unless otherwise contractually conveyed. TU faculty, students and staff are governed by TU’s Intellectual Property Policy. Since institutions of higher learning are steeped in thoughts, ideas, research and other creative endeavors, intellectual property rights are important to universities, their employees and students, and to the world outside.

Legal protection for intellectual property takes several forms. Those important at the university are:

  • Patents, which restrict to their owners the rights to use inventions for a specific length of time;
  • Copyrights, which restrict to their owners the rights to use of literary and artistic works and certain computer programs; and
  • Trademarks or tradenames, which restrict to their owners the use of certain names and stylistic marks used to identify commercial products.

Each of these types of intellectual property protection is codified in the laws of nations.

One of the higher purposes of universities is to employ the creative products of their intellectual endeavors for the betterment of society. To that end, The University of Tulsa encourages the publication and other dissemination of creative works produced at the university. Often, the protection of intellectual property provides an economic incentive to make those products generally available when they otherwise would not be. Copyrights and patents are most the notable tools for that incentivizing distribution.

Invention Disclosure Process

Invention recognition is the critical initial stage prior to the written Disclosure of Invention. In order to address whether an idea is an invention, answer the following two questions:

  1. Is the discovery new?
  2. Is the discovery or finding useful?

An affirmative answer to both of these questions requires a Disclosure of Invention be submitted to the University Intellectual Property Committee. Before submission you should discuss your invention with your adviser (if a student), Department Chair and Collegiate Dean. Inventions include new equipment, processes or compositions of matter or organisms; improvements of existing technology; or new applications of existing equipment, processes or organisms.

Disclosing your invention to the University does not prohibit publication of your research, but publication or public disclosure prior to submitting the Disclosure of Invention to the University Intellectual Property Committee and filing the patent application impacts the ability to secure U.S. and foreign patent protection. Public disclosure, such as an oral presentation to one or more individuals (other than University of Tulsa colleagues), media coverage, correspondence to a friend, publication, etc., accelerates the necessity to process a patent application in order to protect U.S. patent rights and may disallow foreign patent rights. A discussion with colleagues within your department or with university committees that have a “need to know” (e.g., Department Chair, Collegiate Dean, University Intellectual Property Committee) does not constitute a public disclosure.

A U.S. patent application must be filed within one year of public disclosure in order to protect U.S. patent rights; foreign patent rights are adversely affected or forfeited if publication or other public disclosure precedes the patent application.

Assistance is available to complete a Disclosure of Invention or to answer any other questions related to inventions from the Director of Technology Commercialization. Submit your invention to the Chair of the Intellectual Property Committee using the Disclosure of Information form.