Understanding Patents

Publicly disclosing your innovation before a patent application is filed adversely affects its patentability. Please read the short presentation "What you should know about publications and patents" to learn more about how publication affects patentability.

Understanding Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law.

Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in some jurisdictions. Most of the intellectual property handled by TTO is in the form of patentable discoveries and inventions, and so more information is provided about them here.

What is a Patent?

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted under the US Constitution by the federal government to inventors for a limited period of time in exchange for the full disclosure of an invention by the inventors to the public. To be patentable, inventions must be new, useful and non-obvious. While patents are an important tool used to commercialize most Upstate inventions, not all must be patented to be commercialized. For example, it is not usually necessary to file a patent for biological materials when the cell line producing the biological material is controlled by the researcher. In such cases, the license agreement simply forbids transfer of the material to any other parties and requires its return or destruction should the license be terminated.

The purpose of a patent is to publicly disclose the invention in sufficient detail that others can make and use (in patent lingo, ‘practice’) the invention. The patent must contain a written specification describing the invention, which is typically broken into several distinct sections, including, the field of the invention, its background, a summary of the invention, a detailed description of the invention, an explanation of its industrial applicability, and at least one claim. When appropriate, drawings, and a brief description of the drawings, must be included.

More on Patents

  • Anatomy of a Patent
    This page outlines the key features of patents and explains them in detail.
  • Patent Timeline
    This presents a timeline of the patenting process from conception of the technology all the way through patent prosecution. Here you can learn more about the length of time it takes to get a new technology patented
  • Types of Patents
    This page describes the different kinds of patents: design, utility, plant and provisional patents.
  • Patent Prosecution
    This page describes the interaction between OTT and the patent office during the patent application process.
  • Keys to a Better Patent
    Here you can find some tips on how to improve patent applications, and broaden the scope of your technology