Recently, a question was posed to CTTC about the timing of publishing research and disclosing an invention. Knowing other researchers might have the same question, we decided to share the answer here.
Question: I’ve developed a novel device that helped with a project I am working on. I think it could be commercialized, but I need to publish my results that were enabled by it. Do I need to wait to publish?
CTTC supports Vanderbilt researchers' efforts to publish work and to explore commercialization. The two endeavors are not mutually exclusive. Our goals are congruent with the research mission, and it is rare that the commercialization process will impact publication. The best approach is to contact CTTC (615-343-2430 or firstname.lastname@example.org) as early as possible prior to submission of a publication or other public disclosure of the invention outside of Vanderbilt University (such as a conference). The more time we have before publication, the better we will be able to determine whether the invention is patentable and how it might be commercialized. It will also give us adequate time to take whatever measures may be necessary to protect the invention.
“Public disclosure” can take many forms in the eyes of the patent office, including presentations at professional conferences, formal or informal technical discussions with colleagues from other institutions or companies, press releases, and internet postings. The reason we like to see inventions prior to public disclosure is because premature public disclosure will limit your ability to patent the invention in most of the world, limiting the value of your patent rights. Once a patent application has been filed, however, publications can be beneficial in generating commercial interest in the technology.
In the case of software that may have commercial potential, copyright begins when “the code is affixed to tangible material”. Therefore, publication does not limit your right to protect the intellectual property.