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IP Chalk Talk

Determining whether an invention can or should be patented

Dear Colleagues, 

Can we file a patent?  Should we file a patent?

At CURF, when we receive an invention disclosure, we begin a substantive analysis on whether to invest in an invention and pursue patent protection.  Many inventors are somewhat familiar with the legal requirements for patentability, which determine whether a patent can be obtained.  However, inventors often underestimate the effort required to determine whether a patent should be obtained.  Whether an invention can be patented or should be patented requires two different types of analysis.

An invention can be patented if it meets the legal requirements set forth in Title 35 of the US Code.  Any process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter is eligible for patenting.  Abstract ideas, laws of nature, and natural phenomenon cannot be patented.  An invention must have utility in that in must have be useful and serve the purpose for which it is designed.  Only novel inventions can be patented, and all elements of the invention cannot be present in any prior art invention.  Finally, an invention must not be obvious compared to existing inventions and must not have occurred to someone having ordinary skill in the art of the invention.

An invention should be patented if the benefits of the patent outweigh the costs of pursuing it.  A patent typically can cost up to $15K - $20K, can require 100 manhours to manage, and may take 2-3 years to be allowed.  With the level of investment required, CURF must limit its patent filings to only those inventions with the best chance at a return on investment.  The threshold question relating to ROI is whether there is a sufficient market for the invention.  The broad market opportunities must be identified, and we must also evaluate the specific addressable market which pertains to the invention.  The relevancy of the invention in the addressable market and your ability to access that market must also be considered. 

Through CURF's Opportunity Assessment process, we conduct this two-stage analysis to answer whether we can and should pursue a patent.  We evaluate the technical merits of an invention and assess whether the legal requirements can be met.  We also develop a business case for investing in a technology and decide whether we should put forth the effort to commercialize the invention.  Throughout this process, CURF is committed to working with Clemson inventors and supporting their research and commercialization efforts by helping to evaluate and protect their inventions.                


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