Who is this for?
Anyone at the University of Toronto (U of T) who is interested in protecting, selling, licensing, or otherwise commercializing inventions or copyright material produced at U of T. Commercialization is the process of transferring research and technology out of the lab and into the market.
What do I need before I can begin?
Commercialization begins when research yields a useful, unique product or process that someone familiar with the field could use, make and/or sell. You are encouraged to contact the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO) early in the disclosure and commercialization process to ensure intellectual property and commercial rights are protected.
Commercialization and technology transfer create social and economic value by bridging the gap between university knowledge and marketable products or processes that benefit the public.
The Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO) helps build successful partnerships between industry, government, and the U of T research community. IPO also manages U of T’s portfolio of intellectual property and is your first stop for technology transfer at U of T. IPO specializes in licensing, business development, and legal matters to help turn U of T innovation into products, services, companies, and jobs.
The technology transfer process is a continuous cycle in which research drives innovation and the creation of licensed products and services in the marketplace, which in turn help fund future research and innovation.
Observations and experiments can often lead to new discoveries and inventions. An invention is any new process, machine, composition of matter, or useful improvement thereof.
U of T has a modern, flexible invention ownership policy that is ‘Inventor’s Choice.’ If U of T resources (e.g. facilities or funding administered by U of T) were used in the creation or development of the invention, U of T’s Inventions Policy applies.
At the time of creation, inventions are co-owned by the Inventor and the University, which is known as ‘joint ownership’. A written Invention Disclosure to IPO then defines the invention, Inventors, and funding sources that begins the formal commercialization process.
Once an invention is disclosed, Inventors may choose to assume full ownership and responsibility for patenting and commercialization, which is known as ‘Inventor-owned’. Or, the Inventors can offer to assign the invention to U of T, which is known as ‘University-owned’. Following a review of Intellectual Property (IP) and market potential, if the University accepts an assignment, IPO is responsible for managing patent expenses and associated revenues. IPO will also work with Inventors to determine a commercial path for the technology.
For both Inventor-owned or University-owned technology commercialization, inventors have the obligation to disclose their inventions to the University. Disclosing an invention is a requirement before selling, licensing, or otherwise assigning the invention or encumbered copyright material.
The Inventor is able to publish the results of their research and still protect the commercial value of their IP. However, patent rights may affect these activities. It is best to submit an Invention Disclosure well before communicating your invention publicly. There are significant differences between Canada, the U.S., and other countries as to how publication affects a future patent. Once publicly disclosed (i.e. published or presented in some form), an invention cannot get patent protection outside of Canada or the United States. Be sure to inform IPO of any imminent or prior public disclosure if you are considering a patent application.
An exception to joint ownership is if the rights to an invention were granted to a third party under a separate prior agreement, such as a sponsored research agreement or a material transfer agreement.
If the Inventor requests to assign the invention to U of T, it is reviewed by IPO to evaluate its commercialization, marketing, and intellectual property potential. This evaluation guides strategy on whether the University will pursue commercialization, if further development is needed, and if licensing to an existing company or creating a new business start-up is preferred.
If Inventors choose to take personal ownership IPO does not assess the invention, nor complete steps 4-9 below.
4. Intellectual Property Protection
According to the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols, names and images used in commerce.” IP is protected in law by patents, copyright, and trademarks, which enable recognition or financial benefit from creations. Unique biological materials and software can also be licensed without formal IP protection (e.g. through Material Transfer Agreements or Open Source Licenses).
Patent rights may be affected by public disclosure (e.g. written publication or presentation) of the invention, so it is best to involve IPO early in the process.
Learn more about protecting intellectual property.
With support from Inventors, IPO specialists evaluate and define the market opportunity for U of T inventions. This step involves identifying potential customers and competitors, and the key expertise, resources and business networks needed to bring the technology to market. During this stage, the optimal path to market is outlined, which may include creating a start-up or licensing to an existing company.
Learn more about Startups and Entrepreneurship at U of T.
6. Selecting a Licensee
If an appropriate and interested company, or companies, are selected as a potential licensee, IPO licensing specialists work to develop the appropriate financial and diligence terms to fully commercialize the technology.
IPO negotiates and executes an option, license, or assignment agreement. These agreements give the licensee(s) rights to a technology in return for financial benefits.
The licensee continues the advancement of the technology and makes other business investments to develop the product or service. This step may entail further development, regulatory approvals, sales and marketing support, training, and other activities.
Any invention revenues received by U of T are distributed annually to Inventors, departments, units, and the Connaught Fund as per the U of T’s Inventions Policy.
For Inventor-owned technology, net revenues from license fees, royalties, and/or equity are shared 75%/25% between the Inventor(s) and the University. For University-owned technology, net revenues from license fees, royalties, and/or equity are shared 60%/40% between the Inventor(s) and the University. In both cases, the University share of proceeds supports faculties and departments, covers costs and advances the University’s academic and research mission.
Learn more about U of T’s Inventions Policy and revenue sharing.
IPO has created a guide that provides more detail on the commercialization and tech transfer process at U of T. This handbook contains more information on disclosing and protecting an invention, FAQs from our research community, and other services available for U of T Inventors.
- The Technology Transfer Process
- Ownership of Intellectual Property
- Research Considerations
- Invention and Technology Disclosures
- Assessment of an Invention Disclosure
- Other Intellectual Property
- Marketing an Invention
- Licenses and Other Agreements
- Revenue Distributions
- Start-Up Companies
- Navigating Conflict of Interest
- Appendix: IPO Innovation Team Contacts
- Advise on U of T’s Inventions Policy
- Receive and evaluate invention disclosures for technologies created by U of T faculty, staff and students
- Support the protection of U of T IP through patenting and other means
- Assist in finding partners and funding to support proof-of-concept and commercialization
- Market U of T technologies to industry
- Negotiate license agreements with interested companies
- Support long-term relationships with strategic partners that help develop early-stage discoveries into market-ready technologies and products