An invention is a novel and useful idea relating to processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. An invention may include such things as new or improved devices, systems, applications of software, circuits, chemical compounds, drugs, cell lines, antibodies, mixtures, etc.
An invention can be made when something new and useful has been conceived or developed, or when unusual, unexpected, or nonobvious results have been obtained and those unexpected results can be utilized. Many inventions can be patented. Even if an invention is not patented, it can still be useful for a business purpose.
Invention disclosures are filed online using Sophia, a web-based software that enables the tracking of your disclosures and related patents and agreements. Sophia is also used to request Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs), Data Transfer Agreements (DTAs), and Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDAs). You can log back on to view current information about your inventions and agreements.
In addition, the Sophia system will provide you with a convenient listing of the current status of all your invention disclosures. You can use this to complete progress reports for your federal sponsors.
Anyone who may be required to assign their rights to USC per Section 2 of the USC Intellectual Property Policy should submit an invention disclosure to the Stevens Center. If you are unsure whether this policy applies to you and your invention, please submit an invention disclosure and our office can assist in determining whether it is USC owned or not.
USC researchers should submit an invention disclosure if they believe there is an opportunity for their research to be developed for public and commercial benefit. The invention disclosure enables the Stevens Center to track your invention, evaluate it to identify the appropriate legal steps, and begin its work to identify commercial partners. If your invention was funded by a third party (federal funding, sponsored research, etc.), the invention disclosure provides information to the Stevens Center to meet any reporting obligations as required by the funding agreement, such as reporting through iEdison for federally funded works. To meet federal funding requirements (if applicable) and to facilitate Stevens Center review, the description must be “sufficiently complete in technical detail to convey a clear understanding to the extent known at the time of the disclosure, of the nature, purpose, operation, and the physical, chemical, biological or electrical characteristics of the invention.”
You should complete an invention disclosure well ahead of any public disclosure to provide the Stevens Center enough time to take the appropriate steps to protect the invention. We recommend that inventions be disclosed to our office 90 days before a poster presentation or seminar, or at the same time a manuscript is submitted to a journal for review prior to publication. Publication of the work prior to a patent filing may limit our ability to seek patent protections.
A public disclosure is the non-confidential sharing of information related to your invention, sufficient enough that someone “of ordinary skill in the art” would be able to practice your invention. Common public disclosures in academia include:
Journal publications (including arxiv.org and bioarxiv.org)
Conference presentations (including talks and poster sessions)
No, the invention disclosure process is simply a way for the Stevens Center to process and track your invention. It does not provide any immediate patent protections. Upon review, it may be decided that a provisional patent application should be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, providing temporary patent protection.
To complete the invention disclosure form, we recommend that you gather the following information:
Title and short description
The date of first public disclosure or anticipated public disclosure date
A detailed description of your invention. This can be a manuscript draft, a slide deck, or other written materials. To meet federal funding (if applicable) and to facilitate Stevens Center review, the description must be “sufficiently complete in technical detail to convey a clear understanding to the extent known at the time of the disclosure, of the nature, purpose, operation, and the physical, chemical, biological or electrical characteristics of the invention.”
A list of all inventors, their email addresses (usc.edu email preferred), and each inventor’s percentage contribution (if not equal)
A list of funding sources used, the respective grant numbers, and contact information
If applicable, a list of agreements related to this invention, such as a Data Transfer Agreements, Material Transfer Agreements, Collaboration Agreements, Consulting Agreements, Clinical Trials Agreement, and other agreements.
For software, in addition to the above, a list of any third-party codes, databases, and libraries used or incorporated into your work
Once you have completed the online invention disclosure, our office will begin processing the file to confirm that all required information has been provided. We will follow up if there are any corrections that need to be made. You (and your co-inventors) will also receive an email from our team providing instructions on how each inventor will be able to confirm their contribution to the disclosure and “sign off” on the provided revenue/contribution allocation.
A licensing associate from our team will reach out to schedule a meeting. The goal of this meeting is to learn details of your invention and discuss any potential commercialization plans, licensing partners, or strategies you may have. This conversation will help us determine the appropriate approach to protect your invention and whether we should file a patent application. Within 30 days, we will provide a decision on whether or not we are pursuing a provisional or non-provisional patent application, depending on the timing for commercialization.
After the Stevens Center receives your invention disclosure, your designated Licensing Associate will connect with you to discuss potential commercialization strategies. Some of the questions that we hope to answer can be found here (link to follow-up questions for first meeting with PI). In partnership with you, the Stevens Center evaluates the potential for your invention to be commercialized, including understanding its current and future applications, the current status of similar inventions and related intellectual property by others, and the current and future funding environment to continue research in the field of the invention. We also evaluate together which potential existing or future businesses or companies may be interested in licensing your invention.
It is important to include all inventors on your invention disclosure, whether they are affiliated with USC or not, as patent and copyright law requires that all inventors be identified correctly. If an inventor is not affiliated with USC, it is likely that he or she will be required to assign their rights to his or her organization (the “Joint Owner”). This results in the invention being jointly owned between USC and the Joint Owner. The Stevens Center will work with the Joint Owner to manage any intellectual property arising from the joint invention. Revenue from joint inventions is typically split between USC and the Joint Owner, then distributed according to each organization’s internal policies.
If you have worked with our office before, please contact your Licensing Associate directly. Otherwise, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
USC Stevens Center for Innovation
1150 South Olive Street, Suite 2300
Los Angeles, CA, 90015