June 27, 2018


4 Steps for Turning Your Research into a Commercial Product

When do you know you have an invention?

Tim Burners-Lee wasn’t sitting under an apple tree when he came up with the idea of the internet. In fact, he spent years developing other ideas, scrapping them and developing more before nearly a decade later he realized where he’d landed.

Many great ideas come from the slow churn of working through a problem until a solution presents itself. Sometimes, you only have half the answer, and someone else has worked out the other half.

That’s where The Office of Licensing & Ventures (OTC) comes in. Our office is dedicated to helping you navigate every step of the innovation process, starting with just your basic idea, outline, sketch, or unique research outcomes. We can develop your idea or connect you with others and help move it forward.

The innovation process is not always a simple linear series of actions. Each invention has its challenges, and your active input and participation will be a big part of our success.



Submitting your idea to our office is the first step in the process of protecting and commercializing your ideas.

Ownership of inventions depends upon the employment status of the creators of the invention and their use of University facilities.  Learn more>

So it’s important that you get in touch with OTC before you publish and tell us about your novel ideas!

You can do this by:
  1. Easily submitting via our on-line Invention Disclosure Form or IDF (preferably, at least three months before disclosing your idea to the public).
  2. Just get in touch with us– we welcome the opportunity to meet with you early in your research to discuss strategies for future development and commercialization.

Note: The IDF is a confidential, internal document that summarizes your idea’s usefulness.

What we’ll ask for:
  • Any federal or other financial support
  • A list of contributors and their percentage contribution to the invention
  • A description of the invention
  • Any materials from third parties
  • Your plans for any public disclosures
Please be aware that the IDF is:
  • not a legal document
  • not a part of the formal patent application process
  • does not provide any legal protection for your invention

Rather it is just an official submission to OTC to document your invention with us.

But don’t worry, we’ll get to protection and patenting in Step 3!


You will need to research your idea from a legal and business standpoint. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

In this step, you and your OTC representative will:
  • review the invention disclosure,
  • conduct patent searches (if applicable),
  • and analyze the market and competitive technologies to determine your invention’s commercialization potential.

This helps us size up your competition. Everyone has competition—no matter how unique you think your invention is.

Our Licensing Specialists will examine each invention disclosure to review:
  • the novelty of the invention,
  • protectability and marketability of potential products or services,
  • relationship to related intellectual property,
  • size and growth potential of the relevant market,
  • amount of time and money required for further development,
  • pre-existing rights associated with the intellectual property (IP),
  • and potential competition from other products/technologies.

This assessment may also include consideration of whether the intellectual property can be the basis for a new business start-up.

If OTC decides not to pursue patent protection and/or chooses not to actively market the invention, the University may transfer ownership to the inventor(s). Reassignment of inventions funded from U.S. government sources requires the government’s prior approval. You will find further information on this topic in the Patent Policy here.


Based on our initial assessment, we may file a provisional patent application.  A provisional patent application is valid for 12 months.  It is not examined nor published by the US Patent Office. However, it establishes a priority date from which prior art will be determined.

The steps leading from the conversion of this provisional application to an issued patent can be quite complicated and extend over many years. The University will pay the costs incurred during this process with the goal of recovering that investment from a license partner.

It is important to note that not all inventions need to be protected by patents.

For example, most software, databases, and content is best protected via copyright. Research tools and materials, such as transgenic mice and cell lines, may be maintained as proprietary and licensed without patent protection.


In parallel with the patent protection, we also encourage inventors to continue to develop and grow their technology to the proof-of-concept stage. This will de-risk your early-stage technology and increase the likelihood of attracting potential licensees and investors as applicable.

We have put together a list of internal and external translational grants and entrepreneurial resources to facilitate this process, found in the link below.



A license is a permission that the owner or controller of intellectual property grants to another party, usually under a license agreement. This may involve partnering with an existing company or forming a start-up.

With your active involvement, OTC staff identify candidate companies that have the expertise, resources, and business networks to bring your technology to market.

Existing relationships of the inventors, OTC staff, and other researchers are useful in marketing an invention.

We can identify prospective licensees through:
  • Market research
  • Complementary technologies and agreements
  • Using our website to post inventions
  • Leveraging conferences and industry events
  • Direct contacts and existing OTC relationships
  • Faculty publications and presentations are often excellent marketing tools as well.

Studies have shown that 70% of licensees were already known to the inventors. Your research and consulting relationships are often a valuable source for licensees.


For more information and support for creating a start-up or new venture based on your invention, please refer to our Start-up Wiki page.

What are some resources available to you?

Our team is here to guide you through the process of launching your innovations into the marketplace. Here a compilation of helpful links, FAQs and additional resources you may find useful during this journey.