USF researchers ‘gaining ground’ in quest for more product patents

This fiscal year, USF expects to exceed the number of patents issued to its researchers and inventors last year.

In 2008-09, the University earned 36 patents, said Valerie McDevitt, assistant vice president for Research in the USF Division of Patents and Licensing.

And they want to earn more than that by the end of this fiscal year, McDevitt said.

USF generally falls within the top three schools in Florida for the largest number of patents, she said.

“UF is clearly the largest school, but USF is gaining ground,” McDevitt said.

So far, USF has earned 18 patents this fiscal year, which began in June, McDevitt said.

A patent, which allows inventors to market their products exclusively, can be issued at any stage in the development process, she said.

To recognize USF researchers for their work and create an organization to mentor those seeking patents, the University founded an Academy of Inventors this year, said Paul Sanberg, associate vice president for Innovation for the USF Office of Research and Innovation.

The Academy, which was intended to create a network of USF inventors, has more than 130 members who were issued patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), said Sanberg, who founded the Academy.

“The idea was to recognize faculty, students and staff who had been issued patents,” Sanberg said. “It’s not typically what you think USF faculty are about.”

The USPTO issues a patent for an idea that no one else has had, McDevitt said.

Patented products invented by USF researchers range from a protein-producing drug to virus-detecting materials and methods, according to the USF Division of Patents and Licensing Web site.

A backpack retriever that helps wheelchair-bound individuals reach their bags is just one of more than 200 invented items USF has received since 2000, McDevitt said.

The TrakPak backpack retriever, which can be mounted to most power wheelchairs, is a mechanical arm that helps users reach items behind their backrest, according to

The patented product was developed by USF students and is sold by Rehab Ideas Inc., a company that sells rehabilitation technologies developed at USF.

“The backpack retriever … enables veterans and other wheelchair-bound people to pull a backpack from behind them without having to reach back,” McDevitt said. “It’s a mechanical device that lifts the backpack and moves it around to the front so they can get into it.”

The members of the Academy will teach patent-seeking students and faculty how to transform their research into marketable products, Sanberg said.

“We want to try to get individuals to get together, not just to recognize them, but to take these individuals and put them into this Academy to help other people,” he said.

The patents not only bring attention to USF but also help the local community and earn revenue for the University, McDevitt said.

USF faculty and student inventors earned $8.6 million in revenue from 2004 to 2008, she said.