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Explore available services, learn about the disclosure process, and engage with the Office for Technology Transfer 

Available Services

IP assessment, IP protection & patent filing

Forms & agreements (NDAs, MTAs. etc.)

WHOI start-up company support

IP & commercialization education & resources

Marketing, outreach, & licensing

Identification and coordination of translational funding sources for WHOI PIs (e.g., SBIR)

Guidance and support for WHOI PIs speaking with outside companies

How does technology transfer work at WHOI?

What happens after I disclose an idea?

When & why should I disclose my idea to OTT?

We suggest you disclose your idea as soon as possible- the earlier the better. Patents for a specific idea or invention are now awarded based on the first person to file a patent application, not the first person to invent. In general, the first person to file a patent on an idea/invention is the most likely to have a patent granted.

Also, disclosing your idea early allows our office to learn more about your future plans for publications, presentations, and any commercial endeavors, lets us ensure your publications will not compromise the patenting process for your idea.

WHOI OTT handles obtaining IP and pursuing commercialization for all WHOI scientists, engineers, and staff, and it costs the inventor nothing (but a small amount of their time) to pursue patenting and commercialization.

What is patentable?

In general, if you are the first person to solve a problem in a specific way, you may have a patentable invention. WHOI requires OTT to do the patentability analysis and make the decision whether or not to file a patent. If you have a new idea, invention or research result, please contact our office, and we will perform a patentability evaluation. Should we elect to forgo filing you may request a detailed report summarizing the evaluation process. Once a patent is filed, the patent office will request documentation that your invention is new, useful, and non-obvious. OTT will manage that process and contact you for needed information. More information on what is patentable can be found on the USPTO website.

What if my idea is not patentable

Your idea could still be protectable or otherwise commercializable- you should still disclose to OTT and speak with the team about options

After disclosure, what is the evaluation process & how do you decide whether or not to file a patent?

After you disclose an idea to OTT, your idea is prioritized for patent filing relative to other WHOI ideas based on:

– Patentability

– Commercial potential

– Cost recovery

– Market risks

– Other factors

Based on this prioritization, patents will be filed for a portion of idea disclosures but not all. If you are interested in understanding more about the prioritization process, our office will create a report for you summarizing the prioritization score, please contact the office and we would be happy to go through it with you.

OTT will do a prior art search – what is prior art?

Prior art is defined as any prior disclosure, either by publication, patent, or public event prior to the filing of the patent application that may be considered by the Patent Office in evaluating patentability of the invention. Prior art may contain evidence that your invention is already known. If a patent application is filed in the U.S., anything that has been published, used in public, offered for sale, or sold by anyone other than the inventor(s), or more than one year before the inventor(s) file a patent application, becomes a part of the prior art for that application.

I’m about to publish on something that might be protectable- what should I do?

Give us a call as soon as possible. We can make sure a patent application is filed in a timely manner so as to not interfere with your work or your publication.

A company wants to talk with me about my work- what should I do?

Please contact OTT for resources and assistance- a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) may also be necessary. Please see Planning to Talk to Industry in the Inventor’s Portal.

Should we use the company agreements or WHOI agreements?

Whenever possible, we use WHOI NDAs, MTAs, Licenses, and Sponsored Research Agreements. These agreements were drafted by WHOI for industry and corporate partnerships to protect our staff. Agreements provided by a company are usually prepared for relationships with other companies and may be inappropriate or will not apply to an academic not-for-profit organization like WHOI. Use of agreements provided by a company may mean extensive re-writing, legal review, and most importantly, time delay before a final agreement can be reached. When offered an agreement by a company, please refer them to the OTT. We will work with the company to find the best approach for agreement preparation.

When is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) necessary?

An NDA is necessary when there will be any disclosure of proprietary information between parties (a researcher and a company, for example). The Office for Technology Transfer will execute an NDA on behalf of the inventor(s) looking to engage in discussions with companies regarding their technology.

Why are Material Transfer Agreements (MTA) necessary?

Transfer of materials to a third party may affect the patentability of a related invention unless it is done in a confidential manner. A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legal document for the protection of tangible research materials created by researchers that may be useful to others for research or for commercial development. Please contact the Office for Technology Transfer before initiating a materials transfer so that an appropriate MTA can be developed to protect both you and WHOI.

What can I do if WHOI does not file a patent application on my invention?

For budgetary reasons, WHOI is only able to file a small number of patent applications per year. If your invention has not scored as a top priority technology and OTT does not pursue a patent – we may be able to provide you with a license to the technology. The license will allow you to pursue patent filing, patent prosecution, and commercialization. Please give our office a call to discuss the matter.

What is patent inventorship and how is it determined?

Inventorship is a legal matter and is NOT determined in the manner of authorship for a journal publication.

An inventor is someone who made significant contributions to the complete and working invention. Merely following the plan or direction of a manager or faculty member is NOT inventorship. Similarly, stating an objective to be met without describing one or more of the inventive details of the working invention does not make one an inventor. Getting inventorship right is important, because an issued patent may be deemed invalid if inventorship is not correct. WHOI’s OTT will work with you, your co-inventors, and our patent counsel to resolve the difficult cases.

How are royalties distributed?

Royalties are received by OTT and distributed through Finance & Accounting to the inventors, WHOI, the Translational Research Fund (TRF), and the inventor’s department. See below for general royalty disbursement.

– 1/3 to Inventor(s)

– 2/9 to WHOI

– 2/9 to TRF

– 2/9 to the Department

The above breakdown can differ dependent on inventor involvement in the company. Royalties are disbursed twice per year, generally in June and December. Please read the WHOI IP Policy for more details