A copyright is the grant of protection under the laws of the United States to authors of original works that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Examples include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and architectural works. Software may be copyrighted, but may also, in limited circumstances, be patentable.
A copyright owner has the exclusive right to authorize others to reproduce the work, create derivative works, distribute copies of the work, perform the copyrighted work publicly, display the work publicly, and if it is a sound recording, perform the work publicly.
Copyright protection automatically exists from the moment of creation, and a work is created when it is fixed in a tangible form. Therefore, no publication or registration or other action by the Copyright Office is required to secure a copyright. However, copyright registration is required before a copyright infringement suit may be filed.
On average, a U.S. patent application is pending for three years before it issues, though inventions in the biotech and computer fields take longer.
Intellectual property includes patentable inventions (for example, new compositions of matter, new methods of using existing materials, new methods of manufacturing a material), copyrightable works (for example, software), and tangible research materials invented, created or discovered by UMass investigators.
Filing a U.S. patent application may cost between $8,000 - $12,000 or more. To prosecute the application and obtain an issued patent may easily require double that amount. Filing and obtaining issued patents in a foreign country may cost $20,000 or more for each country. Once a patent issues, periodic maintenance fees are required to keep the patent current.
A U.S. patent gives the holder the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or offering to sell an invention within the United States for a certain period of time. Unlike copyrights, which exist from the moment the work is created, no patent or inventor rights exists until the patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Public disclosure of an invention prior to filing a patent application will forfeit patent protection in most countries. Disclosures made under an appropriate confidentiality (CDA) or nondisclosure (NDA) agreement are not considered public disclosures.
Investigators are strongly advised to consult with OTC regarding the nature and timing of presentations, posters, and discussions outside UMass that might include intellectual property.
Only OTC representatives are authorized to approve and sign confidentiality agreements for on behalf of UMass Lowell.
Please see the Forms page for more information.
Call the OTC to determine if you need a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA). Information exchanged under these agreements is not considered a public disclosure. See below for more information on CDA's.
If your research is supported in whole or in part by federal funding, you likely have an obligation to make a disclosure of the technology to OTC prior to any public disclosure. You may also have other obligations of disclosure to OTC for industry sponsored research.
Call the OTC Office in advance so that we can work with you to get the patent protection you need without delaying publication. It is always recommended that a fully enabled patent application be filed prior to any public disclosure to ensure maximum patent protection and commercial value of your invention. However, in no event will OTC ever prevent you from publishing or presenting your research.
A material transfer agreement (MTA) is needed whenever a researcher wants to send or receive research materials from another institution or company. Not all materials can be sent freely between parties. Some materials have stringent regulations on their use and transport such as federal export control laws. Universities and researchers can be fined and even face criminal charges for violations. MTAs can also protect intellectual property rights should an invention arise from the use of the transferred materials.
Only OTC representatives are authorized to approve and sign Material Transfer Agreements on behalf of UMass.
When OTC receives a disclosure form, a case manager is assigned to process the disclosure. Once the disclosure form is fully completed, the case manager will interview the investigator to gain an understanding of the disclosed intellectual property. OTC is responsible for evaluating the commercial value of the intellectual property by conducting market and prior art assessments. The case manager will discuss the technology and the potential market with other case managers at other UMass campuses. Through this process, OTC determines whether it is in the interest of UMass Lowell to file for patent protection.
What is great science isn't always a great patent, and what is a great patent isn't always great science. There are many reasons why the OTC Office may decide not to go forward with a patent application on a new invention. Here are some of the most common:
The preferred time for UMass Lowell investigators to disclose intellectual property is before publication or any other public disclosure (lecture, poster presentation, etc.). With respect to inventions, you may disclose as soon as the invention is conceptualized, rather than waiting until the invention is reduced to practice. You can download the disclosure forms here.