Inventor’s First Steps

1. Fill out a Confidential Disclosure Sheet (link to disclosure sheet on form page) completely and send it to

This sheet solicits information about the inventors, the invention, potential commercial opportunities, public disclosures, and competitors’ products. This sheet allows the Technology Commercialization Office (TCO) to quickly assess the intellectual property and commercial opportunities of inventions which expedites the process of securing intellectual property and commercializing an invention.

2. Conduct a Prior Search.

An in depth prior art search is tantamount to a literature review for an academic paper and requires reviewing hundreds of patent documents. Prior art searches can be conducted on Google Patent (link) and at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (link). Google Patent is more user friendly and has advanced search capabilities, but the USPTO has Boolean logic search capabilities. One prior art search strategy is to write down combinations of relevant terms before starting the search. Once you find a relevant patent, another tip is to search both patents that are referenced in the relevant patent and patents that reference the relevant patent. Google Patent and the USPTO search engines provide quick links in order to navigate between inter-referenced patents. To create a log of relevant patents, you can copy and paste the patent number, filing date, the first claim, and the abstract of the patent on to a Word document.

3. Consider potential consumers and competitors.

Many innovative products are not commercially successful because they do not fit a perceived consumer need or desire. Much like academic discourse and research need to cater to a particular audience in order to be publishable, commercially viable products successfully target groups of consumers. One way to identify whether consumers are interested in your product is by conducting internet searches to see whether similar products are on the market. Generally most innovations are similar to various other technologies and these technologies may have consumer reviews. Once you identify comparable products and have read the consumer reviews, it is useful to consider the following inquiries: Whether your technology performs a job better than comparable products? Whether your technology can be produced cheaper than comparable products? And whether your technology meets consumers’ expressed needs that comparable products do not meet?

Also like academia where publishing and grant opportunities are dependent on the quality and influence of competing researchers, it is important to evaluate the market share and branding of rival products in the marketplace. Sometimes when rival products have disproportionate shares of the market and have strong branding, it raises the resources necessary to penetrate a market segment such that it is no longer feasible or economically prudent to enter the market. For an example, it would be difficult to open a hamburger stand across the street from a McDonalds because McDonalds has an established brand and sophisticated supply chain. Potential market penetration and share are often more relevant questions than market size because it does not matter if a market segment is worth billions of dollars if there is no economically sound manner to enter successfully the market segment.

4. Expect an appointment with the TCO.

We will promptly contact you and schedule a meeting to discuss the invention in more detail. Much like most meetings, the productivity of the meeting with the TCO will be contingent upon preparation.At the TCO, we commit to do our due diligence based on the information you provide in the Confidential Disclosure Sheet. We expect similarly that you will have started a prior art search and have considered potential consumers and competitors so that we can have a productive meeting.