Reporting Innovations

QUICK JUMP: How To Report | What to Report | When to Report | I Need a CDA

The process begins with an initial disclosure of a new idea or research result to OTD via a Report of Innovation or “ROI”. Through this process, OTD can establish what has been created and by whom, what form of intellectual property is involved, and what obligations may already be in place for this innovation and who has ownership interests in the innovation.


University researchers who, either alone or in association with others, make an invention in which the University has or may have an interest, must complete a Report of Innovation (ROI) via BLUE, OTD’s web-based information management system. To access this electronic submission process directly please go to:

Within BLUE researchers may enter an ROI, complete signatures and submit the ROI and view the status of all of their technologies and associated patents and agreements under management at OTD.


Researchers should report all new ideas they think might be considered an invention or might have a use outside the University as well as research results such as new software, cell lines, research tools, or unexpected results from externally funded research projects.


To protect the researcher(s)' interests, all inventions should be reported to OTD.

Essentially an ‘invention’ is an idea that is new and falls within the type of ideas that are covered by patent law. Very broadly, patents are awarded to new ideas for things that can be made by man, or the processes to make them. Types of works that are eligible for patents are machines, processes, methods and compounds, and improvements to the same. An idea must be distinctly different from all earlier ideas (the ‘prior art’) to be eligible for patent protection.

It isn’t always easy to know when an idea qualifies as an invention, but it’s wise to consider whether or not you have something patentable any time you’ve reached a major scientific result, discovered something that solves a known problem, come up with a way to do something that no one else has figured out yet. The time to be thinking about patents is at the point where you have an idea conceptualized to a point where you can describe what the idea is and what it does.


A Report of Innovation form should be submitted as soon as you can completely describe how to practice the inventions, or if tangible property or copyright work, when the work is completed. There are very rigorous standards for filing and protecting patentable ideas (inventions) and failure to adhere to these requirements can result in a loss of rights.

Ideally you should complete a Report of Innovation at least 30 days prior to any public disclosure of a potentially patentable idea. Timeliness in submitting your ROI for an invention is very important, as shown below:

Invention Development Stage Timing of Submission of Disclosure
Innovation: What to do Premature
Conception: How to do it Best
Reduction to Practice: Make it work Very Good
Preparation of a Paper: Describe it Good
Submission of a Paper or Abstract Poor: some rights may be lost at this point
Immediately Prior to Public Disclosure Very Poor: may not have time to prepare a useful patent application
Post-Publication or Disclosure Very Poor: foreign patent rights lost

It is important that you not discuss, publish or display your invention with persons outside of the UNC-CH community without first disclosing it to OTD and allowing OTD time to complete its initial review and pursue a patent, if appropriate. You should allow as much time as possible, but at least 30 days as we’re working on hundreds of invention reports at any given time.

The reason for exercising caution is that under patent law, if you disclose your invention to someone who is not obligated to treat the disclosure as confidential, you and UNC risk losing the ability to file patents. Most life science inventions are considerably devalued or are worthless to companies if they cannot be patented. Some software may not need a patent to facilitate commercialization, but it is best to review first, disseminate second. Even if you are not sure if your invention is, in fact, an invention under patent law, you should not disclose it outside of UNC-CH until disclosing it to OTD. OTD can help you make the determination of whether your technology is patentable or otherwise protectable.

When you want to discuss your technology with colleagues at other universities or companies, OTD will prepare and execute a Confidentiality Agreement (CDA) with that company or university. A confidentiality agreement accomplishes many things; it protects our right to file patents, and it makes it more difficult for unscrupulous persons to steal your ideas (although a patent is the best defense against such theft).