Innovation and patent

Innovation, patents etc.

1 April 2003 the board (case 28/03) decided to start “NTNU Technology Transfer AS“, shortened to “TTO:; Technology Transfer Office”. The goal is more innovation, and the object of the company is to administer, improve, and sell the rights to inventions belonging to NTNU. This is a difficult subject with a lot of acts, regulations, and agreements. Registering a patent or starting a new company requires a lot of paper work and normally a high economical risk. Luckily, assistance is available.

Starting your own company?

We recommend that you contact people who can help you. Advisory services and help are often free of charge. NTNU, SINTEF and some other employers have as an objective to stimulate their employees to start their own companies. Use the links on the bottom of this page for further information.

Immaterial rights

In your PhD-agreement and the regulations, it is stated that the candidate has the intellectual property (copyright) to the thesis. This is however only valid for the text you have written. Ideas and scientific results are not covered by this statement.

When talking about immaterial rights, it is important to distinguish between

  • Intellectual property / copyright (e.g. to a text or software),
  • Protection of design or patterns ,
  • Rights to use and protect a trademark/logo/brand/name,
  • Patent rights.

Patents

A patent is a time limited exclusive right to make use of an invention for 20(25) years.
The patent gives you the right to refuse others from using whatever you have patented. This means that others cannot produce, sell, use or advertise the patented invention without your approval. When you apply for a patent, you are really signing an agreement with the government so that you have the sole rights to utilize it for a limited time, but you have to make your invention public and pay an honest fee. The motivation from the government is to let the society know and get access to new technology. To patents are not secrets, but a way of publishing.

Note that the patent is only valid in the country or countries where an application has been filed and approved. This is an important consideration, which has to be done independently for each case.

Requirements:

  • New
  • Invention
  • Technical nature
  • Industrial utilization

What can be patented?

A patentable idea is a solution to a problem (usually a technical solution). This could be products, methods of performing operations, or applications. It is also possible to obtain patents on combinations of known ideas and new utilisation fields. Even though the regulations state that one cannot claim patents to computer programs, this is possible. In the US this is very common.

My rights and duties

Legally, patent rights are governed by “Lov om retten til oppfinnelser som er gjort av arbeidstakere” (The law of rights to inventions made by employees). Note $2: (translated) “the law is only applicable if no other agreements have been signed”.

In the PhD regulations, the candidate and the supervisor have a duty to report ideas that could be patented. TTO will investigate the idea. If they are interested in it, they will assist the process of registering the patent. As stated above, the registration process is often cumbersome and expensive, so it could be beneficial to use the TTO even if you have the sole rights to the idea.
If the patent gives an income on less than 300 000 kroner, you will receive half of the income, and NTNU the other half, after covering all expenses. Above this limit, you, NTNU, and your department or research group will receive one third each. The regulations state that NTNU could claim their share even if TTO refused to assist you and pay expenses for registering the patent.

If you have external financing and/or external employment, things become more complicated. DION has requested a description of the details on this.

To obtain a patent, you cannot publish your idea first, i.e. write about it in an article or present it at an open conference. This could be a problem for your degree. DION recommends that you contact the TTO and a legal professional or labour union in this situation. Start a dialogue with your supervisor as early as possible so that you avoid conflicts. To settle a dispute, contact the mediation board (Norwegian: “meklingsnemnda”). This is free of charge. The section manager at the juridical section of the patent board, Randi M. Wahl, is the secretary in the mediation board.

Contacts/links/references

There are many organizations and people who could advise and help you – some of them free of charge. DION recommends the references below. First you should contact NTNU Technology Transfer.
NB: Never send confidential information in emails.

Some relevant acts (translated from Norwegian):

The text above is written by the webmaster in DION and Magnus Hakvåg – and we would like to keep the copyright of this document. Please contact us if you want to copy content from this page.