"Can a researcher publish his/her findings? If yes, how does it affect patenting in
the USA and in foreign countries?"
Researchers are generally free to publish or make public disclosures of their findings any time, in any media of their choice, limited only by any pertinent contractual obligations. However, a public disclosure or publication destroys most non-US patent rights immediately if a patent application has not already been filed; US patent rights are lost if a patent application is not filed within twelve months of the publication or presentation. In most cases, filing a US patent application before the first publication or presentation will temporarily preserve the right to file outside the US. If you have any further questions or concerns please contact the Office of Innovation & Technology Commercialization to discuss further.
"What is publication for patent purposes?"
For purposes of patent law, a publication may be a published article in a journal, magazine, or newspaper; a presentation at a conference; a thesis or dissertation; distribution of preprints; a posting on the Internet; and a number of other events that tend to disclose knowledge to the public, or at least that portion of the public most likely to appreciate its significance. While not technically a "publication", other events that have a similar effect include the sale of an embodiment of an invention, an offer to sell, and the public use of an invention. It is important to note there are certain narrow exceptions that may apply.
"Is a grant proposal considered a publication? A discussion of an idea with colleagues?"
Submission of grant proposals to state or federal agencies, and discussions on a one-to-one basis with co-workers or peers may or may not be considered publications, depending on surrounding circumstances. Once a grant proposal has been approved, its abstract is generally published, typically online. At least the abstract will then be considered a publication, from the date it become publicly available. The remainder of the grant may or may not be considered a publication as well. Some funding agencies permit portions of a grant application to be specifically marked as "Confidential."
"Is a dissertation or thesis considered a publication?"
In general, yes, although it can be important to identify its effective publication date. Traditionally, a dissertation or thesis was considered to be published once it had been catalogued and shelved in a publicly accessible library. Dissertations and theses are now typically submitted and published electronically, rather than on paper. While unanswered questions remain concerning the legal effects of the relatively recent advent of electronic publication, it is reasonable to expect that the "publication date" of an electronic dissertation or thesis should generally be the date that it is first made available to the public online.
"When is an electronic dissertation or thesis at LSU made available to the public
Graduate degree candidates are given the option to release their work in whole or in part worldwide or within LSU only. They are also given the option to withhold their dissertation or thesis from publication for a period of time, in some instances. To err on the side of caution, it would be prudent to assume that even release within LSU would be treated as a "publication" under the patent law. Please contact the Graduate School for information about publishing/withholding dissertations or theses. Please contact ITC to discuss this question further as it relates to patent rights.
"Are patent applications published?"
Yes. Most US patent applications filed after November 2000 are published on the Internet approximately 18 months after the earliest filing date claimed. Patent applications in many other countries have long been published 18 months after filing. A published patent application is itself a publication that might be cited against a later patent application.