Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers and general information quickly about the Technology Commercialization Office (TCO) and Intellectual Property procedures at the George Washington University (GW).

If you still have questions, contact us.

What is Intellectual Property?
Why should you contact TCO before a presenting a poster or seminar and before publishing an article, thesis or dissertation?
Why should you disclose your invention to GW?
How do you disclose your invention to GW?
What happens after submitting an Invention Disclosure Form?
What do I need to do to send/receive materials for research?
How is licensing income from inventions shared?
What is a patent?
Who should be listed as an inventor?
What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)?


What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) is an asset embodied by an idea. Ideas can be protected by various methods including patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. You may refer to our brief reference page to learn additional important patenting terminology.

Why should you contact TCO before a presenting a poster or seminar and before publishing an article, thesis or dissertation?

Those activities will forfeit the right to apply for patents in most countries. If you contact TCO before making such a public disclosure, we can evaluate your potential inventions and file a patent application in time to preserve your intellectual property rights worldwide. The application process can be done quickly (within limitations) to avoid delays. Then you may continue with your planned public disclosure without damaging the potential for your invention to be commercialized. Any indexed and accessible publication or description that contains enough information for someone skilled in the art to reproduce the invention is a public disclosure. Public use of an invention may also count as public disclosure even if nobody else was aware of the public use.

Why should you disclose your invention to GW?

Disclosure allows you to access TCO resources. TCO evaluates disclosures, applies for patents, pays patent prosecution costs, markets intellectual property and negotiates licensing agreements. In addition, faculty, staff and graduate students who receive support for their studies from the government or are GW employees are obligated to disclose any inventions to GW. 

How do you disclose your invention to GW?

Email an Invention Disclosure Form (DOC) to tco@gwu.edu

What happens after submitting an Invention Disclosure Form?

TCO will conduct patentability and marketability research to evaluate the invention’s potential. If TCO finds an invention has significant potential, TCO may assist with and pay for the patent application(s). If TCO does not decide to pursue IP protection, TCO will release the rights to the invention to the inventor (for federally funded research TCO will approve the inventor’s request for rights to be released from the government). After the patenting process begins, TCO will conduct further market research and work to negotiate a license for the IP with a company. Inventor input and continued development of the invention are the strongest factors in successfully licensing inventions.

What do I need to do to send/receive materials for research?

Please send a completed Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) Request Form (DOC) to the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) at osr@gwu.edu. An OSP representative may discuss the materials with you and will negotiate a MTA on your behalf. MTAs are required for transfers to or from GW and other universities, research institutes or companies. MTAs provide conditions for using materials, publishing results, protecting intellectual property rights and restricting distribution. They also prevent the provider from being held liable for any use of the material.

How is licensing income from inventions shared?

Up to $100k, inventors share 50% of the licensing revenue after deduction of expenses. Of the remaining proceeds, 20% goes to the inventor’s department, 10% to the inventor’s school and 20% to the OVPR. See the Patents and Scholarly Work Policy (PDF) for further details.

What is a patent?

A patent excludes others from making, using or selling an invention. Patentable inventions include any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, compositions of matter or any new useful improvement thereof. In addition to practicing an invention themselves, patent owners may derive income by licensing to others the right to practice the patented inventions.

Who should be listed as an inventor?

Inventorship is distinct from authorship of scientific articles. Inventorship must conform to IP law, which recognizes the person that conceived the idea, not the person that reduced the idea to practice. The conception is complete if the inventor can describe how to make or practice the invention. Inventorship determinations are made after completion of an Invention Disclosure Form (DOC). Proper inventorship is required for a patent to be valid.

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)?

An NDA is an agreement between the university and a company or individual(s) that may protect both parties (a two-way NDA) from disclosure of confidential information. Before researchers provide sensitive information (written or oral) to others, it is important that GW signs an NDA covering the information. Because many inventors continue developing their ideas after the initial patent application, it is important to keep new developments confidential when interacting with third parties. The NDA prevents discussions with companies from damaging prospects for future patents that may be valuable to all parties. Completion of an NDA often is the first step toward securing a license, because it enables more thorough evaluation by the company.