Protecting Intellectual Property (IP)/Patents

The best way to protect your ideas is to contact us and discuss whether or not your idea is suited for legal protection. Federal laws establish time constraints related to public disclosure of your idea; when in doubt it’s best to contact WSU Ventures as soon as possible after the creation of the idea and before you discuss the idea with anyone.

We can help you determine the best way to protect your innovation. To decide the next steps, we consider:

  • the type of innovation
  • the current level of progress
  • your short and long-term goals

We use a variety of methods to protect you and your work, including Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts & Agreements.


University intellectual property is commonly protected by patenting. In the United States, a patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the invention. If someone wants to apply a patented invention in practice, a license may be given that states the owner of the patent will not enforce its right to exclude them from such use.

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 composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

WSU Ventures will work directly with you and an Intellectual Property attorney to complete the application. Often, the first step is a Provisional Patent. This application does not require the drafting of claims, is not reviewed by the Patent Office and serves as our “flag in the sand” to claim a priority date for inventorship. The Provisional Patent has a 12 month term and must be converted to one of the three types of patents listed above, before the expiration date, or it will expire.

The Provisional Patent application process can be performed relatively quickly especially if a draft journal manuscript already exists. To ensure that the provisional patent application is complete and as solid as it should be, please contact us at least two weeks before any planned publication, submission, presentation, or other public disclosure.


If your idea is a creative expression and not also a method, machine or device, the mechanism used to protect that intellectual property is a Copyright. Copyright protection allows the owner to exclusively copy, distribute, display, perform or make derivate works. Copyrights are different from Patents in that the protection is immediate upon the idea being fixed in a tangible medium. No application process and allowance by the Copyright Office is required!

There are however benefits to formally registering your Copyright application. For example, registration serves as proof of ownership, it allows you access to the court system to file suit against infringers and may include the ability to recover attorney fees, legal expenses and statutory damages.


Trademarks are classified as a business asset and are used to protect the identity or brand of the company. Another name for trademarks is service mark and is used when the distinguishing feature is a service rather than a product. Examples of items that can be trademarked include words, symbols, designs and sounds. Learn more about Trademarks.


Intellectual Property may also be protected through the use of a variety of contracts and agreements. For more information about specific types of contracts used by WSU Ventures please visit Forms & Agreements.