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July-August, 2004 - VOLUME 3, NUMBER 4

Patents Plentiful at CAER

Drs. Burt Davis and Jim Neathery received a patent for their invention "Bubble column apparatus for separating wax from catalyst slurry" U.S. Patent 6,762,209, July 13, 2004. This is the 20th CAER patent that has been accepted in the last decade.

Perhaps because of the applied nature of the Center's research, the CAER is among the most aggressive units at UK in patent submissions. The process of developing and commercializing intellectual property involves several steps, moving from an invention disclosure, to the establishment of proprietary rights through patents, copyrights or trade secrets, to a license to an industry to use or practice the know-how or technology.

Beyond this, finding a potential licensee and demonstrating the efficacy of a particular innovation necessarily requires fairly wide ranging technical discussions with the product development groups of client-industries. Even after licensing, the industry will often require close collaboration in the early stages of technology development and scale-up.

What exactly is a patent? According to the university's web site, a patent is "a property right granted by the federal government that allows the owner to exclude others from making, using, selling, or offering for sale the patented invention for the life of the patent. Patents are authorized by the U.S. Constitution, and have a maximum life of 20 years."

An invention must meet three criteria in order to be patentable. First, the invention must be novel. Second, it must be useful. Finally, it must not be obvious.

The successful patents issued to CAER researchers reflects the diverse areas of research carried on at CAER. They range from the high tech to the low tech like carbon fiber filters for air filtration to methods for making polymer fillers from ash. The number of patents granted to CAER researchers speaks to a mind-set of practical work, with an aim to assist industrial partners in all energy fields.