SDSU ideas patented for protection


Revolutionary ideas are being developed at SDSU, and those that have practical value are patented.

Technologies developed at SDSU have even turned into new companies and researchers at SDSU continue to come up with novel ideas that are often targeted at solving real world problems. However, turning an innovative idea into a practical, patented product is often a long, tedious process.

According to Will Aylor, patent attorney at the SDSU Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization, the patenting process for U.S. patents typically takes at least three to five years before a patent is issued.

The whole process begins when a researcher believes he has discovered a novel idea and submits an invention disclosure form to the Office of Technology Transfer. The office will then talk to other experts in the field to figure out if the idea is actually innovative. It will also have market analysts look into the market to see if the idea is profitable. If the idea is novel and has market potential, the university will pursue a patent, Aylor said.

According to Dr. William Gibbons, an SDSU professor of agronomy and microbiology, the university will then file a provisional patent, which gives the researcher up to a year to collect more data and the university time to draft a full patent.

The U.S Patent Office will then send an examiner to look at your claims. “They negotiate back and forth with you – that can take up to two or three years,” Gibbons said. If enough of a researcher’s claims are accepted, the university will receive the patent.

The university can then license the patent to a company for a price. If this happens then 50 percent received goes to the researcher and 50 percent goes back to the university. The professor can also form his own company around the patent. If he does this, he can still keep his day job, Gibbons said.

The South Dakota Innovation Partners, an innovation fund, partners with the researchers and handles all the business aspects of the company.

Gibbons and another professor, Mike Brown, have done this, forming their own startup. The company, Prairie Aqua Technology, is based off a patent both of them developed together.

They developed a plant-based replacement for the fish meal commonly used in the pellets fed to farm-raised fish. This could be a solution to the problem of the “fish meal species” of fish, which goes into the pellets fed to the farm fish – disappearing due to overfishing. Prairie Aqua Tech is now working on moving toward getting this product on the commercial scale.

“When we started with the bench, we started with a small number of trials with some fish and everything went great,” Gibbons said. “There’s a long ways between that and commercial deployment.”

According to Gibbons, they currently have a pilot-scale facility that is producing one ton a day.

Gibbons is not the only professor that has built a business around a patent.

Om Perumal, an SDSU pharmacy professor, has been able to patent a novel idea for a drug delivery system using Zein, a protein found in distiller’s grains. This discovery could one day help to fight cancer. A startup company formed by Perumal, Tranzderm Solutions, is currently focusing on topical applications. Perumal has also patented a new method of fighting breast cancer.