For UA Inventors
Our innovators and their intellectual property are at the core of the Office for Innovation & Commercialization (OIC). We invite all students, professors, researchers, and staff affiliated with The University of Alabama to speak with us about patenting and commercializing new discoveries.
The path from the lab to the marketplace place depends on the innovator and the level of readiness of their technology. There are two standard options for how to move forward with OIC:
- Speak with an OIC representative about your technology to gauge the best time to disclose the idea.
- Submit an invention disclosure to start the patent process.
Submit an Idea
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How to Decide
- If you are in the early stages of research and do not yet have much data showing proof of concept, we would suggest starting the conversation with OIC rather than formally disclosing your invention. Our office will be able to help you further once the project has a bit more structure.
- If you have data and proof of concept, it is important to keep in mind the timeline and reporting requirements when seeking a patent. When a formal invention disclosure is submitted, it essentially starts a countdown for deadlines, especially when the project is federally funded. If you plan to keep the technology confidential with The University of Alabama System by not publicly disclosing the project (journals, seminars, manuscripts, etc.) and the risk of another inventor filing a patent application ahead of you is low, then waiting to file a formal invention disclosure might be the best route for you. Contact our office to discuss further.
- If you are planning to disclosure the project publicly or there is a lot of competitor innovation in your sector, please submit your idea via a formal invention disclosure. Additionally, if your public disclosure is taking place in less than a month, please contact our office directly and we will expedite the process.
PLEASE NOTE: Our services are only available to people affiliated with The University of Alabama. Please do not submit ideas to our office unless you are or have been affiliated with UA. If you are not affiliated with our institution, please consider connecting with the USPTO’s Nationwide Pro Bono Program.
OIC does not file patent applications for all invention disclosures it receives. Only technologies that offer reasonable commercial potential and return on investment will be selected for further processing. There are 3 potential outcomes of our pre-approval process:
- DECLINED (RED): Our office might decide to not pursue a patent for a number of reasons. Perhaps we discover that the technology is not truly novel due to prior disclosure or pre-existing patents are found during our analysis. Maybe the development costs are too high or the market potential too low to warrant the expediure of applying for a patent. Whatever the case may be, our office is here to fully explain the rationale behind the decision. Please keep in mind that if OIC chooses to not pursue a patent, you still have the opportunity to seek a patent yourself. If this is the chosen route, we suggest seeking assistance from the USPTO’s Pro Se Assistance Program.
- NEED MORE INFO (YELLOW): Occasionally an idea may seem promising but is simply not ready to be approved. In those cases, our office will work with you to pinpoint what data is needed prior to determining patentability.
- APPROVED (GREEN): Congratulations! Our office is ready to move forward filing formal patent paperwork and seeking a licensee via the post-approval steps listed below.
During the post-approval process, our office will partner with you to better understand your technology and apply for a provisional patent through the USPTO. We will also focus on spreading awareness about your innovation to existing businesses and entrepreneurs with the goal of securing a licensing agreement, which yields royalties back to both you and the University. Our office will provide updates regarding our marketing efforts and industry feedback. Within a year of applying for the provisional patent, our office will determine whether or not we will move forward with a formal patent. This decision is based on the traction we receive from industry partners during our marketing efforts. We do not convert all provisional patents to formal patents. Finally, not all formal patents yield licensing opportunities. The best advice that we can give is to be patient and do your best to partner with our office. Innovators who are readily available to answer our questions and provide needed feedback tend to have the best conversion rates.
UA Innovator Resources
Research Institutes & Centers
UA is home to a variety of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary organizations. These institutes and centers address problems by bringing together faculty, students, and staff from various departments, and can provide highly valuable insight to innovators and industry alike. Learn more about our research institutes and centers.
Economic Development Assets
Innovators continuously stay on the cutting edge of progress with their research, so additional tasks like networking, entrepreneurship, workflow productivity, sustainability, and business development can feel daunting. Luckily, UA makes it easy to find assistance and spur growth with 15 Economic Development Assets spread across three colleges. Whether the next step is analyzing the current market or forming a startup company, these units provide the support needed to launch innovation to the next level. Learn more about our Economic Development Assets.