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Faculty & Inventors Protecting Intellectual Property

Common-sense guidance in safeguarding your discoveries

The first critical step to commercializing an invention is to report it to us in advance of any public disclosure. Our team will then work to ensure the intellectual property (IP) is protected and managed according to Harvard's IP Policy. Proper stewardship ensures your invention may be developed to its fullest capacity.

  • Early action protects IP

    In light of recent changes to U.S. patent law, it’s important to protect innovations before other parties have a chance to file and before you publicly share information. If you plan to disclose any information about your innovation to others, please contact us immediately.

Report an innovation

Our online form for reporting your discovery allows our intellectual property specialists and business development experts to help you assess your idea or discovery.

  • Who is an inventor?

    Unlike authorship on a research publication, inventorship is a legal determination made by a patent attorney. An inventor on a patent is someone whose ideas and experimentation are responsible for (or substantially contributed to) the conception of an invention. In a university setting, inventors might include the faculty member in whose lab the IP originated, students or postdocs who carried out work in the lab, and collaborators or others who contributed to the invention.

  • Members of the labs and research groups are essential, valued collaborators, and anyone who contributes to the conception of the invention may be an inventor.

    Karen Sinclair

    Director of Intellectual Property

  • What can be patented?

    To be patentable, an invention must be useful, novel, and not obvious.

    • Compositions of matter – new chemical or biological entities, but not isolated products of nature
    • Machines – mechanical or electronic devices, including medical devices
    • Articles of manufacture – new products made by defined process
    • Processes – methods of making compositions, methods of making articles, and even some methods of gathering or evaluating data or of performing business.

    Harvard researchers generate other types of intellectual property in addition to inventions, such as copyrightable creations, including content-based scholarly works, and unpatented materials, such as cell lines.

    Curious to see some examples? View patents recently issued to Harvard inventors.

  • OTD will advise you on whether your innovation appears to be patentable. If it meets the criteria, and if IP protection will enhance its chances of benefiting society, we will file a patent application.

    View the typical USPTO roadmap