The Collegiate Inventors Competition, a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Invent Now, is a national competition that recognizes and rewards innovations, discoveries, and research by college and university students and their faculty advisors. The Competition encourages students who actively pursue invention. Students frequently come from science, engineering, mathematics, and technology studies but creative invention can emerge from any course of study. The Competition also recognizes the working relationship between a student and his or her advisor. The program was introduced in 1990.
The presenting sponsor of the Collegiate Inventors Competition is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
No. The Collegiate Inventors Competition is not a traditional scholarship program and does not provide direct tuition assistance. The Competition recognizes innovations, discoveries, and research by college and university students and their faculty advisors by awarding unrestricted cash prizes.
All Finalists of the Collegiate Inventors Competition will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C., as well as cash prizes.
The application consists of: general student information; an essay including a brief description or abstract of the invention; information on the faculty advisor; a letter of recommendation from the faculty advisor; a literature/patent search and summary; and any relevant supporting or supplemental materials you wish to submit (examples: charts, graphs, CDs or DVDs, slides, samples, etc.). In addition, entrants must fulfill the student status requirements. The entry must be written in English.
Students chosen as finalists must attend the final judging session and awards presentation in Washington, D.C. in November to be eligible for awards (airfare and hotel will be paid for by the Competition). Additionally, finalists may be asked to officially confirm their status as students.
The Collegiate Inventors Competition receives inventions of all types from all fields.
Each entry must be the original idea and work product of the student/advisor team, and must not have been (1) made available to the public as a commercial product or process or (2) patented or published more than one (1) year prior to the date of submission to the Competition.
The invention, a reduced-to-practice idea or working model, must be the work of a student or team of students and a university advisor. If it is a machine, it must be operable. If it is a chemical, it must be complete with evidence of successful application of the idea. If it is a new plant, color photographs must be included in the submission. If a new or original ornamental design for an article of manufacture is submitted, the entire design must be included in the application. In addition, the invention must be capable of being reproduced.
It will depend upon the circumstances and the manner in which you shared the information about your invention. You cannot enter the Competition if your invention (1) is no longer patentable under 35 U.S.C. §102; or (2) has been issued a patent for more than one year prior to the date of submission to the Competition.
Students must be enrolled, or have been enrolled, full-time (in any U.S. college or university) at least part of the 12-month period prior to the submission entry deadline. In the case of a team with a maximum of four (4) students, at least one member of the team must meet the full-time eligibility criteria. The other team members must have been enrolled, at a minimum, on a part-time basis sometime during the 12-month period prior to the entry submission deadline.
No. However, you must meet the eligibility requirement of student enrollment in a U.S. college or university.
Yes. There is no limit on the number of entries a student or team may submit in a given year; however, only one prize per student or student team will be awarded.
Yes, as long as he or she can meet the stated full-time student eligibility requirement or, if part of a team, can meet the stated full-time or part-time student eligibility requirement.
Yes; however, you must designate an individual to serve in the capacity of an advisor for purposes of the Competition and that person must submit a letter on your behalf. Your advisor may be a counselor or faculty member who knows you and with whom you feel comfortable describing your invention/research.
A maximum of four (4) persons may comprise each team. At least one member of the team must meet full-time student eligibility criteria, and the remaining team members must meet the part-time student criteria at a minimum. Note that a team cannot be formed for the sole purpose of entering the Competition.
You must self elect whether to be considered in the “undergraduate” or “graduate” category. If, during the course of the judging process, it appears that the work is primarily that of the graduate student(s) or vice versa your application may be reassigned to the more appropriate category. If the team consists of a majority of graduate students, it will be considered in that category.
The online application for the 2016 Competition will be available in spring 2016.
No. The goal of the Collegiate Inventors Competition is to recognize, award and encourage student innovation. We do not seek any ownership interests in your invention. We strongly encourage all students to begin the appropriate intellectual property protection process as soon as possible.
Entering the Collegiate Inventors Competition does not require you to make any “enabling” disclosures; that is, we do not ask you to give us information that would allow a person of ordinary skill to duplicate your invention. As such, we do not view your entry as a public disclosure. In addition, all individuals reviewing your entries are bound by nondisclosure agreements. Invent Now only uses the titles and very short descriptions of the inventions for publicity purposes.
No. However, keep in mind that in order to obtain patent protection in the United States, the inventor must file a patent application within one year of the date of public disclosure or commercial use of the invention. In most foreign countries a patent application must be filed prior to any publication or commercial use. For information on how to file a patent application visit www.uspto.gov.
Yes; however, keep in mind that in order to obtain patent protection in the United States, the inventor must file a patent application within one year of the date of the initial public disclosure or commercial use of the invention. In most foreign countries a patent application must be filed prior to any publication or commercial use. For information on how to file a patent application visit www.uspto.gov.
If you meet all of the eligibility requirements and your work has not been patented or published for more than one year prior, then you may still enter the Competition; HOWEVER, individuals should be extremely cautious when dealing with invention promotion companies. Please conduct research to make sure that the company you are working with is reputable. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the USPTO have online information designed to help consumers avoid invention promotion scams and improper business practices among such companies.
To view the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information on Invention Promotion Firms, go to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0184-invention-promotion-firms.
To view the USPTO publication “Top Ten SCAM Warning Signs” go to
Yes, a literature and/or patent search is an essential component for determining originality of the idea presented in your application. In addition, your search will be used by the judges, along with their own research, to help distinguish your invention from other inventions and concepts previously described.
For purposes of the Competition you can conduct your own patent search. Please see the Resources section of the website for sample patent searches and guidance on conducting a search. In addition, the Technology Transfer Office at your institution may be able to assist you in this process.
No. However, we are expecting you to make a good faith effort to identify inventions, discoveries and articles that are similar or related to your work (prior art) and to distinguish your invention from that prior art. See the Resources section of our “Enter the Competition” page for guides and resources to aid you in conducting your patentability/literature search. In addition, you can find examples of patent/literature searches submitted by past CIC winners.
A thorough search considers all prior art. That is, it considers all known information relevant to your invention, including earlier United States patents, foreign patents and non-patent literature (e.g., newspapers, journal articles, published papers, etc.). To obtain more information on conducting a patent search, visit the USPTO at www.uspto.gov or consult your school’s Technology Transfer Office. You can view sample searches and find additional resources to guide you in conducting your search at the Resources section of our “Enter the Competition” page.
The USPTO has a freely searchable online database that allows the user to search U.S. patents issued from 1790 to the present. Information on how to use the database can be found at www.uspto.gov. In addition, every state has at least one Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), a library where collections of patents and patent information can be accessed. You can find the PTRC closest to your location by visiting www.uspto.gov/go/ptdl/.
The two key questions you must answer in summarizing your patent/literature search are: (1) What other inventions, methods, discoveries or processes exist (or have been written about or described) that are similar to your invention? and (2) How does your invention differ from those other inventions, methods, discoveries or processes; specifically, what makes your invention different, unique or an advancement over existing inventions, processes, discoveries or methods?
Three first round judges review each entry submitted to the Collegiate Inventors Competition. To ensure blind scoring, the judges do not meet or collaborate with each other in scoring the entries. Their collective scores and rankings along with data collected by independent researchers are used by Invent Now to determine the finalists.
All finalists meet individually with the final panel of judges for formal presentation of their inventions. The Undergraduate and Graduate Divisions may have different judging panels. Students also entertain questions from the panel. After all the finalists have made their presentations, the panel deliberates and selects the winners in each division. The judges’ decision is final.
The first round judges are scientists, researchers and other experts in the fields of mathematics, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, materials science, computer science, medicine, pharmacology, nanotechnology and other disciplines related to invention and technology development. The judges, all volunteers, represent government agencies, research institutions, professional associations and private industry. Entries are assigned to judges based on the particular field or category of the invention.
The final round of judges consist of Inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and special guest judges, which in the past have included experts from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institutes of Health, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie and the Kauffman Foundation among others.
• Degree of originality and inventiveness of the work presented
• Level of completeness or development of the invention
• Potential impact or benefit of the invention to society — economically, environmentally and socially
• Level of student initiative
All judges are required to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements that state they will not discuss, use or convey any information they read in the entries with any other person(s) outside of the judging process. Applications are screened for any potential conflict of interest before they are assigned to judges. In addition, if a judge is working on a similar project or area of research, he or she is required to recuse him or herself from reviewing or judging an entry.
Washington, D.C. in November.
Finalists are notified by telephone about two months before the final judging round. Other entrants will be notified by e-mail later that month. Finalists will be featured on the Collegiate Inventors Competition website.
The winners are announced at an Awards Ceremony that takes place the day after the final judging round concludes. The top prize winners will be featured on the Collegiate Inventors Competition website.
All entries are destroyed at the conclusion of the Competition unless you request that your entry be returned.
Due to the large number of entries we receive each year, individual feedback cannot be given to all of the participants; however, finalists may receive feedback on their presentations to the final round judges.
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