Frequently Asked Questions

▼   What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is intangible personal property that can be characterized as invention, discovery, know-how, technological development, computer software, or even trade secret. It is protected by copyrights, trademarks and patents and is an asset to its owner. If protected adequately, intellectual property can be managed to benefit the owners and inventors as well as the public interest.
▼   What is a Patent?
A patent is a grant of the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention and includes a right to license that invention to others to make, use, or sell it. Patent protection lasts for twenty years from the earliest filing.
▼   What is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.
▼   What is trademark?
A trademark is a mechanism that allows for the protection of signs, logos, phrases, expressions and designs that represent products or services.  A trademark can include a device, brand, label, name, signature, word, letter, numerical, shape of goods, packaging, color or combination of colors, smell, sound, movement or any combination thereof which is capable of distinguishing goods and services of one business from those of others. Trademarks need to be maintained through lawful use otherwise they expire.
▼   What is trade secret?
A trade secret can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that gives an opportunity of a company to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.  Trade secrets are only protected by the information remaining a secret. 
▼   What is Public Disclosure?
Public disclosure is a key event in the patentability of an invention. Any presentation, publication, poster session, web posting, seminar, thesis defense or other dissemination of the enabling technology embodied in the invention is considered a public disclosure and starts the patent clock ticking. Once a public disclosure has been made, the ability to file foreign patents is lost and a one year period begins for filing patents in the US.
▼   What is the difference between Inventorship and Authorship?
The difference between authorship and inventorship is an important distinction. Authorship on a manuscript follows traditional academic practice in recognizing various contributions to the preparation of the paper. However, an inventor is a person who contributes substantively to the conception or reduction to practice of an invention. A final determination of inventorship typically is made by a patent counsel once the patent application is prepared. Inventorship and authorship are not equivalent, and incorrect inventorship can lead to the invalidation of a patent.
▼   How do I collaborate with industry?
The University of South Alabama is actively collaborating with industry partners.  If you currently have a relationship with a company, we can help you formalize that relationship.  If you are looking to develop new relationships, we can facilitate interactions between you and key industry collaborators.  Contact OCIC by calling +1 (251) 460-7932 or by emailing to discuss further details.
▼   Where do I go for an MTA?
MTAs for both incoming and outgoing materials are located in the MTA navigation tab on the OCIC website.
▼   How do I submit and invention disclosure?
To submit an invention disclosure click on the “Submit Invention Disclosure” button on the OCIC homepage.  This will bring you to the online inventor portal.  For detailed instructions on how to submit an invention disclosure, follow this link to access the inventor portal user guide.
▼   How do I use the Inventor Portal
A guide to the Inventor Portal can be found by following this link.
▼   How do I approach USA about licensing technology?
You can browse currently available technologies by clicking on the “Search Technologies” button on the OCIC homepage.  You can also contact OCIC by calling +1 (251) 460-7932 or by emailing
▼   How do I collaborate with USA?
The University of South Alabama is open to many different types of collaboration that are mutually beneficial to both parties.   We actively engage in academic collaborations, material transfers, visiting scholars, industry sponsored research, and non-profit partner for SBIR/STTR grant awards.  To collaborate with USA you can contact OCIC by calling +1 (251) 460-7932 or by emailing
▼   How does USA collaborate with small businesses on grant opportunities?
The OCIC actively seeks industry partners that are interested in applying for small business grant opportunities.  We see SBIR/STTRs as an excellent mechanism to develop university technology and strengthen relationships with small business partners.  To collaborate with a USA faculty member or utilize one of our technologies in your small business grant application, contact OCIC by calling +1 (251) 460-7932 or by emailing
▼   Can I publish a journal article and still file a patent?
You may publish a journal article and still file a patent.  However, this publication, or any form of public disclosure, will limit our ability to file a patent outside of the US.  In the US, inventors have a one-year grace period after information is publicly disclosed to file a patent.  It is always best to contact our office as soon as possible, especially if you are thinking about publishing information related to intellectual property.  We will never prevent you from publishing but we can discuss a strategy that will allow for optimal intellectual property protection and publication.