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Venture Cafe, Protecting Intellectual Property, on October 13 Bob Silva Michael Gegenheimer
Bob Silva speaks on protecting intellectual property as fellow speaker, Michael Gegenheimer, listens

Four ways to protect your intellectual property

How to utilize the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Ohio University

Jasmine Grillmeier
October 22, 2015

Aspiring entrepreneurs received expert advice on protecting their intellectual property from two national experts on the subject at the most recent Venture Café co-sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Ohio University Technology Transfer Office.

The speakers were Bob Silva, director of technology transfer at Ohio University, and Michael Gegenheimer, the associate IP counsel at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus. Silva has managed intellectual property, commercialized technology and created technology-based start-up companies for more than 24 years in both the public and private sectors. At Ohio University, he is responsible for the capture, evaluation, protection, marketing, licensing and commercialization of all intellectual property developed at the University. Gegenheimer’s 27 years of experience include intellectual property management and development, and early-stage technology strategy and positioning.

The evening started with Silva’s explanation of the four types of intellectual property protection. The first, patents, protect functional expressions of an idea, such as a machine, a process, manufactured items, compositions of matter and/or any improvements of any of these. Gegenheimer noted that to be patent-worthy, the idea must be “new, useful and not obvious.”

The second type, copyright, protects artistic/creative expression such as writing, photographs, paintings, music or software.

The third, trademarks, protects any symbol or word that indicates the source or origin of the goods or services to which it is affixed. “You want to prevent confusion with a consumer, and that’s what a trademark buys you,” Silva said. For example, McDonald’s famous Golden Arches are trademarked and when customers see this symbol they know it exclusively represents McDonald’s.

The fourth and final type, trade secrets, protects any information that is not “commonly known” and which the company has taken reasonable steps to keep in confidence. Perhaps the most famous example is Coca-Cola’s secret formula. 

Silva went into specific detail on protecting intellectual property via patents. Ultimately the protection patents provide is preventing others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing your expression of an idea.

“I want to reiterate: A patent is not a grant for you to go and make it,” Silva said. “A patent is a grant to prevent others from making it.” This means you will have the upper hand on developing the expression of your idea. In order to obtain a patent you must complete an application process through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Ohio University has an entrepreneurial ecosystem full of resources for students, faculty, and regional entrepreneurs. The Center for Entrepreneurship hosts networking and informational events/lectures, supports student entrepreneur clubs, and offers a major and minor in entrepreneurship at Ohio University. The Ohio University Technology Transfer Office provides patent protection, evaluation of the market and licensing. And TechGROWTH Ohio offers growth grants and pre-seed investment, business coaches, and staffing assistance for start-up companies, just to name a few.

A visual representation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Ohio University can be found here.

For more information about the event sponsors, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Ohio University Technology Transfer Office, visit ohio.edu/entrepreneurship and ohio.edu/research/tto, respectively. To stay up to date on all university events, including other upcoming Venture Cafés, visit calendar.ohio.edu.  

The next Venture Café will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in Baker University Center 240 and will cover “Building an Entrepreneurial Team” with Mike Langer.