Technology Transfer

How to Prevent Grant Proposals from Undermining Patent Protection

Did you know that you immediately forfeit your non-U.S. patent rights when you publicly disclose your invention if a priority filing date has not already been established? An invention is not patentable in the U.S. and most other countries if it was described in a publication more than one year prior to the filling date of a U.S. patent application. In order to be patentable, an invention must be novel, and therefore unpublished. Any disclosure to anyone outside The University of Toledo can be considered a publication.  

In the past, grant proposals have not been treated as publications because of the belief that they are not generally accessible to the public. However, in DuPont v. Cetus, a federal court held that an NSF grant proposal describing patentable subject matter constituted a publication because it was sufficiently accessible to interested persons. The grant was considered accessible because it had been indexed and could be obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Since it was indexed more than one year prior to filing a patent application, it constituted a patent bar.

It is important to remember that a grant application might be considered a public disclosure that could impair future patent rights! Please keep this in mind when there is a description of a patentable invention in a grant application. In addition, correctly predicting an invention in a grant proposal, even without any supporting research data, may be sufficient to bar patentability. If possible, avoid direct and definitive predictions as to the research results, and try not to fully disclose any existing technologies by leaving out details or providing insufficient information about one or more essential steps. If it is necessary to give a detailed description of an existing or predicted invention in a grant application, the invention may need to be protected before the application is filed.

To protect your intellectual property please keeps in mind the following: 

  • If you think you have a patentable invention, contact the Patent Technology Associate in the Technology Transfer Office at 419.530.6229 to secure protection.
  • It is recommended that all of the partners in the project outside of the university enter into confidential disclosure agreements. Please use the University’s template bilateral agreement
  • If possible, avoid direct and definitive predictions as to the research results, and try not to fully disclose any existing technologies by leaving out details or providing insufficient information about one or more essential steps. 
  • Follow the rules of the Request for Proposals regarding confidential/proprietary information
  • If appropriate request confidential treatment in the transmittal/cover letter of the proposal. Please use the template letter found below: 

 Dear [Agency]:

The accompanying grant proposal contains information that is or may become the subject of a United States patent application and that is important to future commercial efforts based on such confidential information. Disclosure of this document and the information it contains may cause substantial harm to such commercial efforts. Accordingly, this grant proposal and the confidential information contained in it are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, Sections 552(b)(3) and (b)(4) of Title 5 of the United States Code and the corresponding regulations of [the Agency]. If any person or entity should request a copy of this document or any portion of it, [The University of Toledo and Applicant] ask that notices of such requests be provided to [Applicant and Patent Technology Associate at The University of Toledo] as provided in Executive Order No. 12,600. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely, 

Mark W. Fox, M.S., J.D.
Patent Technology Associate
The University of Toledo
Technology Transfer
Mail Stop 218
2801 West Bancroft Street
Toledo, Ohio 43606-3390
419-530-6229 Office Phone
mark.fox@utoledo.edu

  • Specifically identify confidential information, and each individual page should be stamped "Confidential." The legend provided below should be included with the grant proposal at the time of submission. 

CONFIDENTIAL

This document, or portions of it, contains confidential information that is or may become the subject of a United States patent application and that is important to future commercial efforts based on such confidential information. Accordingly, this document and the confidential information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, Sections 552(b)(3) and (b)(4) of Title 5 of the United States Code and corresponding regulations of United States Government agencies.

Last Updated: 6/26/15