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Grant Applications as Prior Art
The vast majority of investigators are aware that public, printed, enabling documents can jeopardize successful patent filing in both the US and abroad.
Are you aware that grant applications can also serve as printed publications?
- Typically, for most federal agencies, applications are held in confidence until the grant is funded.
- However, after the grant is funded, much of the grant-related information is considered public information and is subject to information requests.
- E.g., NIH makes grant information available through its Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) system and NSF publishes abstracts of funded projects on its website.
- Additionally, NIH sends the project description abstract to the National Technical Information Service (NTS) at the Dept. of Commerce where it is made available to the public.
At least one US court has determined that a grant proposal was a “printed publication” because it was accessible to the public.
It is very important for the investigator to determine if confidential Intellectual Property (IP) is contained in documents (i.e., proposals, progress reports, final technical reports) provided to federal funding agencies prior to submission.
- The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires federal granting agencies to release grant documents to the public. Agencies will withhold information known by them to be trade secrets or other proprietary information.
- Following a FOIA request, the agency will also contact the grantee and allow them to redact sensitive information before public disclosure.
- NIH actually discourages submission of proprietary information unless it is essential for proper evaluation of the application.
If the PI thinks there is potentially patentable technology in the grant application, the Technology Development Center should be contacted.
Investigators are urged to contact the Technology Development Center if they have any questions.
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