Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is intellectual property?

A product of the intellect that has commercial value, including copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works, and ideational property, such as patents, appellations of origin, business methods and industrial processes.

What is a patent?

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. The right conferred by a patent grant is "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling" the invention in the country the patent is awarded or "importing" the invention into that country.

There are three types of patents:

Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof;

Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture, and

Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants (this does not include Plant Variety Certificates which are discussed below).

What qualifications must be met for an invention to be patented?

Three criteria must be met for a patent to be issued. They are: novel, nonobvious and useful. For an invention to be patentable, it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if: "(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent," or "(b) the invention was patented or described in printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country more than one year prior to the application for patent in the United States…"

Even if the subject matter sought to be patented is not exactly shown by the prior art, and involves one or more differences over the most nearly similar thing already known, a patent may still be refused if the differences would be obvious. The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be nonobvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention.

How long are my patent rights protected?

In most circumstances, patent rights are conferred for 20 years from the date on which the application was filed in the United States, subject to the payment of maintenance fees as provided by law.

What is the cost of obtaining a patent?

This varies widely and is determined by attorney costs, type of technology, number of claims and drawings in the patent application, number and type of rejections from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), filing fees, etc. The cost may be anywhere from $4,000 and up.

What part of this cost is borne by the AgCenter inventor or department?

None. The LSU AgCenter handles all patenting and legal expenses. Often, a company that wishes to license the technology will bear the majority of the expense.

If I publicly disclose my work, will I still be able to obtain a patent?

A public disclosure of one’s work includes published articles in any journal, magazine or newspaper; presentations; a thesis or public dissertation; distribution of preprints; e-mail or similar postings on the Internet; an oral or written description, exhibit, demonstration, use or the like to outside parties, in a nonconfidential environment.

Publicly disclosing your work prior to applying for patent protection almost always destroys any hope of filing in a foreign country. In the United States, a patent must be filed within one year of the earliest public disclosure.

What is a provisional application for a patent?

A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term "Patent Pending" to be applied in connection with the invention. Provisional applications may not be filed for design inventions.

Provisional applications are not examined on their merits and do not necessarily need to contain claims. A provisional application will become abandoned by the operation of law 12 months from its filing date. The 12-month pendency for a provisional application is not counted toward the 20-year term of a patent granted on a subsequently filed nonprovisional application that relies on the filing date of the provisional application.

What is a PVP certificate?

The Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), enacted in December of 1970, and amended in 1994, provides legal intellectual property rights protection to developers of new varieties of plants that are sexually reproduced (by seed) or are tuber-propagated. Bacteria and fungi are excluded. The PVPA is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.

A Certificate of Protection is awarded an owner of a variety after an examination shows that it is new, distinct from other varieties, and genetically uniform and stable through successive generations.

The term of protection is 20 years for most crops and 25 years for trees, shrubs and vines. The owner of a U.S.-protected variety has exclusive rights to multiply and market the seed of that variety.

Who owns an invention stemming from sponsored research?

Titles to inventions resulting from sponsored research belong to the LSU AgCenter. If a patent is issued to the AgCenter resulting from federally funded research, the United States government has a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to use the invention.

What do ‘licensing’ and ‘royalties’ mean?

Licensing is the granting of permission to use intellectual property rights under defined conditions. Either exclusive or nonexclusive licenses are awarded. The LSU AgCenter promotes the licensing of our technologies to Louisiana small businesses.

Royalties are the payments made by a licensee to a licensor for the rights to sell a product or use a process protected by a patent. Royalties may be a set, agreed-upon figure or a percentage of sales.

How are royalties distributed within the LSU AgCenter?

Within the AgCenter royalties are distributed pursuant to LSU Bylaws chapter 7, PM-64 and LSUAC PS-22. Typically, the internal distribution is as follows:

40%- Inventors
10%- Office of the President
10%- Office of the Chancellor
25%- Vice Chancellor or Director of the administrative area to which the inventor reports
15%- Department, research station or administrative unit that was involved in the development of the invention

How can an AgCenter researcher share confidential and proprietary findings with an outside entity and still keep the University’s interests in mind?

A Confidentiality Agreement may be found in the ‘Forms’ section. The researcher, department head, vice chancellor and the outside entity that the information is being shared with should sign this agreement. The LSU AgCenter Intellectual Property Management team handles this sort of agreement between a member of the faculty and an outside business interest.

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture