Intellectual property is any writing or discovery that is a new and useful process, machine, composition of matter, life form, article of manufacture, software, trademark, trade secret, copyrighted work or tangible research property. It includes such things as new or improved devices, circuits, chemical compounds, drugs, genetically engineered biological organisms, antibodies, clones, cell lines, data sets, software, Web-based tools, musical processes, photographs or unique and innovative uses of existing inventions.
For an invention or intellectual property to be patentable, it must be a process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or related improvement. A process is a mode of treatment of certain materials to produce a given result. It is an act or series of acts performed on the subject to be transformed and reduced to a different state or thing.
A machine is a distinctive means for accomplishing a certain result. It differs from a process in that it is limited to a particular apparatus.
A manufacture is an article or product. In this case, patentability depends on the functional relationship of structural elements.
Composition of matter refers to chemical and metallurgical compositions and may include certain combinations of ingredients, as well as new compounds and recombinant organisms.
It is also possible to patent an improvement to any item patented in one of the above categories, but it must be more than a change in design or proportions and must, like inventions in the other categories, meet the criteria below.
A patentable invention must be useful, have a specific use. A patentable invention must also be novel, be new and original; and non-obvious. Even though it is novel, it must not be obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the related technology at the time the invention was made. Inventions that are not patentable include: laws of nature, algorithms, theories, plans of action, mere ideas or results.
In general, patentable inventions are creations that are better, cheaper, more efficient, use fewer steps, save time, are less harmful, shine brighter or act selectively or synergistically, etc. As a rule of thumb, if data or results are being used in support of a proposal seeking research money or are set forth in a draft of a paper to be peer reviewed, then such data or results likely are the result of novel research and an Intellectual Property Disclosure form should be submitted to the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC).
Disclosure of confidential material to any outside party constitutes a public disclosure and may compromise certain patent rights. Articles in newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, textbooks, journals, reports, theses or dissertations [including those which are posted on the University Digital Repository for the University of Maryland (DRUM) Web site at https://drum.umd.edu/dspace/index.jsp ] may all qualify as publications. Oral presentations may constitute publication in some countries, as would distribution of a paper or abstract at a public meeting.
Inventors should seek advice and carefully consider the timing and ramifications of publication. This is especially true if the predominant market for the invention is not in the United States. When in doubt, contact OTC for guidance or file an Intellectual Property Disclosure form with OTC before publishing.