Intellectual Property

Who is an inventor, and who is an author?

Inventorship (for patents) and authorship (for copyrights) are defined by U.S. law, and those definitions do not follow accepted academic standards for who might be an author on a paper or a principal investigator on a grant.

To be an inventor, you must contribute to the conception of the invention—that is, you must envision step-by-step how the invention might work. Carrying out someone else’s instructions, even if your efforts prove the invention works, does not qualify you as an inventor. Providing knowledge that is in the public domain—no matter how obscure or how helpful—does not qualify you as an inventor.

An author of a copyright is the person who comes up with the creative expression of an idea, not the idea itself. If you instruct someone to write a computer program to carry out a specific function, the programmer is an author, but you may or may not be, depending upon the detail of the instruction you gave to the programmer.

What comes next?

After the appropriate intellectual property protections have been secured for an invention, the next step in the commercialization process is to explore options for licensing the invention.