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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Turning ideas into big bucks

Will Furgeson/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Raina Maier, professor in the department of soil, water and environmental science, observes a visiting researcher refine her patented biosurfactant. The shot was taken in room 322 of the Family and Consumer Science building.
Will Furgeson/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Raina Maier, professor in the department of soil, water and environmental science, observes a visiting researcher refine her patented biosurfactant. The shot was taken in room 322 of the Family and Consumer Science building.

When thinking of the UA, certain words come to mind, like Mars and basketball. UA professors are working to add another word to that list — patents.

As of 2009, the UA has 107 U.S. patents or patent applications, ranging from protein kinase inhibitors, to a new silicone refining process, to new cancer treatments.

Through patenting inventions and ideas, faculty, staff and students are able to secure the financial right to their invention’s use or production.

The UA is 21st in the nation with expenditures for patents, having spent nearly half a million dollars in the patent process over the last several years. On average, patenting of one machine or process can cost between $20,000 and $50,000, which the UA will cover if the invention seems like a winner.

Many people on campus are unaware that the UA is nationally ranked for patents.

“”A lot of people really don’t know about it,”” said Amy Phillips, a technology transfer license specialist in the college of optical sciences. “”We’re trying to make sure the faculty members know about it.””

Raina Maier, a professor in the department of soil, water and environmental science, is one of the faculty members who knew where to go for her patent.

“”I don’t think faculty know much about it but we really went after (the patent),”” Maier said.

She, along with Michael Stanghellini, a UA professor emeritus who teaches in California and three then-students, patented a biosurfactant that can be used in pesticides in 1998, after starting the patent process two years earlier.

“”I haven’t gotten rich off of the patent,”” said Maier, who licensed the use of her invention to the Jeneil Biosurfactants Co. in 2004. “”But it’s kind of neat to have it.””

Maier noted her work on U.S. patent 5,767,090 still hasn’t stopped and through a $3.3 million National Science Foundation grant in partnership with the UA chemistry department, there might be even more patentable results dealing with biosurfactants.

“”It was quite an experience and I’d definitely do it again,”” Maier said.

Phillips, who has worked with many professors on patents, noted that Maier’s experience with long hours and several tries before approval is common.

After the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which allowed for non-profit companies and universities to patent inventions, the process of patenting has given both colleges and professors a way to get returns on millions spent in research.

Phillips had two pieces of advice for those wanting to patent inventions through the UA: Go to the Office of Technology Transfer website and fill out an invention disclosure form and be careful with publications of research, because once it’s publicized, it’s nearly impossible to patent.

“”Patenting is very exacting work,”” Phillips said. “”It’s very unusual for it to be easy but if somebody’s got an idea, they should write down everything in regards to it (to see if they can get it patented).””

For those who went through that process, it seems that the payoff is big — not everyone has got a U.S. patent.

“”To see simple research turn into something people are using every day is really exciting,”” said Maier of her work with biosurfactants, now licensed to be sold in pesticides in New York. “”It’s a great feeling.””

Patenting at the UA:

•Come up with something novel and new.

•Fill out an invention disclosure form.

•Get it approved by the UA Office of Technology Transfer.

•Write up the patent application.

•Submit it for review.

•Re-submit if the patent is not approved, which it usually is not on the first application.

•Receive a U.S. patent that then can be licensed.

•Receive royalties after the UA recoups its upfront expenditures for the patent process.

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