Intellectual property includes the inventions, discoveries, software, drawings, and technical know-how of Laboratory staff.
What comprises the Laboratory’s intellectual property?
Intellectual property (IP) includes the inventions, discoveries, software, drawings, and technical know-how of Laboratory staff.
Why should employees protect the Lab’s intellectual property?
The Laboratory's ability to use the results of its own scientific research and to effectively meet its congressionally-mandated technology transfer mission depends on how well it protects its IP. Patents and copyrights provide an inflow of royalties from licenses and funds from industrial partnerships. A portion of this income is distributed to innovators, as well as to their divisions. Division royalty funds can be used for research, education, or research and development activities. When employees accept a position with the Laboratory, they agree to report any patentable device, process, or product discovered during their Laboratory employment. (See Patents under Asset Management/IP 830 Intellectual Property in the Policy Index.)
How do I know if my work should be protected?
A patent is granted for an original idea. The idea may be an invention (utility patent), a new ornamental design for an article of manufacture (design patent), or a distinct and new variety of plant (plant patent). In general, the Lab's IP is subject to a utility patent in one of the following classes:
- Process—a defined series of steps performed to change the nature or characteristics of a material, composition, or article
- Machine—a group of elements or parts interacting to produce a given effect
- Article of manufacture—almost anything produced by a human
- Composition of matter—a chemical compound or mixture of ingredients
- New and useful improvements on the preceding classes of inventions
What is the criteria for "patentability"?
- Novelty—An invention must not have been described in any form of publication, placed in use, or offered for sale—even by the inventor—more than one year before the date of the patent application.
- Not obvious—Someone skilled in the appropriate crafts should be unable to readily deduce how to make the invention.
- Utility—The invention must have a useful purpose.
What can be protected by copyrightable material?
Copyright is extended to the expression of ideas, not to the ideas themselves. For Laboratory personnel, the following works can be protected by copyright:
- computer programs
- user interfaces
- films, videos, or recordings related to Laboratory work
- drawings, figures, blueprints, and photographs related to Laboratory work
- certain technical papers
Copyright extends to the original expression of ideas, procedures, and processes, not to the ideas, procedures, and processes themselves. In other words, a copyright does not protect information. However, it does protect an individual's unique way of presenting information, such as how one organizes and arranges facts. Elements found in the public domain are not protected, nor are elements copied from others.