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Using Inventions in the Public Domain: A Guide for Inventors and Entrepreneurs

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Using Inventions in the Public Domain: A Guide for Inventors and Entrepreneurs

Submitted by Nathalie Montillot
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James Conley is an inventor who serves as a faculty member in the Kellogg Center for Research in Technology & Innovation. He also serves as a Faculty Fellow at the Northwestern University Segal Design Institute. He is a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

In 2004, 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016, he received the Professor of the Year award from the Master of Product Development program at Northwestern University. In 2011 and 2013 he received the Professor of the Year award from the Master of Science program at the WHU in Germany.

His academic research investigates the strategic use of intangible assets and intellectual properties to build and sustain competitive advantage. Research sponsors have included the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), US Department of the Treasury IRS, The Chicago Biomedical Consortium, Microsoft, National Science Foundation, NASA, FAA, NIST, the Department of Defense, Motorola and others. His publications have been recognized with "Best Paper" commendations from the American Foundry Society, the Society of Automotive Engineers, The Rapid Prototyping Journal and others. Mainstream outlets for his scholarship include the Wall Street Journal, the Sloan Management Review and the California Management Review.

Beyond Northwestern, he serves as an expert and author for the UN based World Intellectual Property Organization. He has headlined WIPO workshops in Jamaica, Barbados and St. Lucia. He has also served as an appointed member on the United States Department of Commerce Trademark Public Advisory Committee to the Patent and Trademark Office.

He has been called to offer testimony on intellectual property related matters in legal and policy forums including the International Trade Commission, US Federal District Court, US Federal Tax Court and at International Tribunals in Asia and beyond. Further, he is appointed to serve as an external Ph.D. examiner by Abo Akademi in Finland.

He is serving as a special issue editor of Technology and Innovation and serves on the editorial boards of the California Management Review and The Journal of the National Academy of Inventors.

To access a webinar presentation by Professor Conley providing more information about the objective and content of the Guide, please go to: (the slides of the webinar can be downloaded below).

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Welcome to the eTISC platform. I will be here to assist you in any way I can to explain the concepts discussed with the Guide on Using Inventions in the Public Domain available for free download here. If you have questions on how patents and other IP regimes can help you with your product development process, I am here to help. So do send your questions. I look forward to hearing from you soon!


Reply by fayrouz allam

Dear Dr.

How can I use some of information in the published patent in developing my product without breaking it's IP rights?


TIMS, TISC office


In reply to by fayrouz allam

Dear Dr. Fayrouz,

Thank you for submitting your question. We have detailed discussions in the Guide along with examples of how savvy inventors have successfully managed to use information in an issued patent in developing their own products. The key here is to make sure that you are not infringing on patent rights granted by the jurisdiction you are operating in. To ensure this there are 2 types of searches that can be done: 1) Novelty search, 2) Freedom-To-Operate (FTO) search. The brief discussions on these searches and other relevant information are included in Section 6 (pp. 44-48) titled "Finding if there are available technologies you can exploit to identify market opportunities" listed under Module III. 

Please make sure to access the full Guide freely downloadable at

Best regards,


Reply by Nathalie Montillot

Please note that the Questions and Answers from the Webinar on the Guide on Using Inventions in the Public Domain have been added to this Ask the Expert session (see above under "Documents": document entitled "wipo_webinar_tisc_2020_8_q+a_1.pdf")

This Ask the Expert session will close on July 23, so only a few days left if you have any burning questions you would like to ask our Experts! Don't miss this opportunity!