Intellectual Property

There are several options for protecting intellectual property. Work with the Office of Technology Transfer to determine the determine the best option and strategy.


  • Patenting is a lengthy and expansive process, and requires close cooperation of the inventor, not the least of which include signing various forms promptly, reviewing and responding to the office actions as needed.
  • A patent is a property right granted by the government in each country to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in that country for a limited duration.
  • In order to be patentable, an invention must be novel, non-obvious, useful and must be one of the one of the patentable subject matter: process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. The laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable.
  • An inventor is the individual who first conceives the invention. If someone merely provides funding or pays for the development of the idea, he/she is not an inventor. Conversely, if someone merely follows the instruction and acts as a “pair of hands”, he/she is not an inventor.
  • Under the America Invents Act, patents are granted on a “first to file” basis now in the United States. Once an invention is made public, we lose the right to file for patent protection in most foreign countries.


  • A copyright protects original works of authorship, such as writings, music, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed.
  • Copyrights are automatic: books, music, software, artwork are all protected automatically by virtue of their creation.
  • Registration of the work, is not necessary, but is recommended in the event there is infringement issue on the copyright or the ownership issue is raised.
  • UM has very specific Policies on Copyright in the Faculty Manual.


  • A trademark protects a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that represents the source of the goods of one party.
  • To file a trademark application, we must either have already used the mark in commerce, or “intend to use” the mark in the future.

Trade Secrets

  • Trade secrets protect information, formula, compilation, program, technique which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable by others.
  • Unlike patents, trade secret protection can continue indefinitely unless there is a public disclosure which terminates the secrecy of the information.
  • Trade Secrets Law Prohibits “Misappropriation” of Trade Secrets.