Patents

Overview

Background

Following a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship by the Stevens family in Hoboken, NJ, we present Stevens Inventor’s Handbook (Handbook) as an encouraging guide for those who aspire to create knowledge and innovate in the fields of engineering, science and technology management.

This Handbook contains basic information and policies about the various forms of Intellectual Property (IP).  We outline functions of the USPTO and offer general counsel for obtaining a patent.  Resources for searching artwork, as well as other general IP points to be aware of, are also provided. We include Stevens' IP / patent process and give you steps to report your invention disclosures to Stevens' IP manager, the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE).  Furthermore, we include important advice for protecting your IP when you submit grant proposals and publications.

Disclaimer

This information was compiled from numerous online and internal sources. The Handbook should only be used as a general educational guide. Because U.S. patent laws and Stevens policies change from time to time, please use the Handbook cautiously at your own risk. We suggest consulting an expert at Inventor Resources or other government or professional organization for definitive information. Stevens Institute of Technology is not liable for the use or misuse of information incorporated in Stevens Inventor’s Handbook.

Please consult David Peacock, Director of Intellectual Property Management,  OIE, with any questions about Stevens IP and the patent process.

Intellectual Property Protection

We hope that this section will help students and faculty better understand Stevens' IP philosophy. We specifically concentrate on patents for employee inventions and discoveries, rather than traditional forms of IP.  To wit, our Trustees acknowledge:  A strong intellectual property portfolio is the cornerstone of Stevens Academic and Strategic Plan. We encourage you to review the Patent and Copyright Policies below which articulate Stevens' philosophy and policy.

Patent Policy (Doc. 37.5 kb)

Copyright Policy (PDF 284.6 kb)

U.S. law credits any invention to the person originating its discovery (“inventor”).  This "first to invent" policy helps protect the originator's rights.  At Stevens, employees ("assignor") must assign these patent rights to the Institute (“assignee”).  Inventors have one year to publicly disclose and claim an invention.  A patent application for the invention then must be filed within one year of its disclosure and manufacture.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Functions

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a Department of Commerce agency, grants patent protection for inventions and registered trademarks of inventors and businesses.  USPTO serves the President, Secretary of Commerce, Department of Commerce offices, and other governmental agencies both domestically and globally.  USPTO records, classifies and disseminates patent information.  Thus, in effectively promoting our nation's technology, USPTO is pivitol in preserving our country's competitive edge worldwide. 

USPTO Functions

  1. Reviews applications and grants patents to entitled applicants;
  2. Publishes and disseminates patent information; 
  3. Records assignments of patents;
  4. Maintains search files of U.S. and foreign patents;
  5. Maintains a search room for public use in examining issued patents and records;
  6. Supplies copies of patents and official records to the public;
  7. Trains practitioners as to requirements of the patent statutes and regulations; and
  8. Publishes the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. Trademarks undergo similar processes.  

Intellectual Property Types

Intellectual Property (IP) can primarily be categorized into four forms: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.

Patent
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.

Trademark / Servicemark
A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms “trademark” and “mark” are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and servicemarks. 

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the USPTO. The registration procedure for trademarks and general information concerning trademarks is described on a separate page, Basic Facts about Trademarks.

Copyright
Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or photo records of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

Trade Secret
The definition of "trade secret" is not as simple as the definition of "patent." While patent law is based primarily on codified federal law, trade secret law is based primarily on state law, state law which is sometimes codified, sometimes not. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) defines "trade secret" as follows:

"Trade secret" means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

(i) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
(ii) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy