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iEdison Overview

    Background and Executive Summary


U.S. federal law mandates that all recipients of federal grants or contracts must report details of inventions and patents that have been made through such awards. The regulations are stated at 37CFR Section 401. To facilitate compliance with regulations, in 1995 the National Institutes of Health developed an on-line Extramural Invention Information Management System, Edison. The system was named for the prolific American inventor Thomas Alva Edison. The Edison system was deployed in October 1995. It became the first Web-based electronic system in the government to support administrative requirements.

By 1997, when Edison had clearly demonstrated the benefits of electronic reporting, it became obvious that an even greater value could be realized. Since all federal grantees and contractors must report inventions made through funding agreements to any federal agency, it made a lot of sense to get such reports submitted through a single user interface. This would streamline the reporting process for the government's customers, leading to greater compliance with the law.

And so, in 1997, with the addition of the NSF and USAID, came the introduction of Interagency Edison (iEdison). Through the iEdison single user interface, inventions supported by any of these three agencies could be reported. The data is partitioned within the single iEdison database so that each agency can oversee their invention reports. Since 1997, iEdison has grown to where now approximately 500 grantee or contractor organizations are registered and using the system, and inventions supported by any of 18 federal agencies can be reported through the iEdison system!

IEdison offers several important advantages for Bayh-Dole reporting compliance:

EXTRAMURAL INVENTION REPORTS ARE HIGHLY TIME-SENSITIVE.

The status of the election of title or patent application relating to a particular invention needs to be known to the government agency and grantee or contractor organization even to within one day. iEdison updates records and reflects any updates to the user in real time to give organizations great flexibility in time-sensitive decisions.

EXTRAMURAL INVENTION REPORTS REQUIRE TRACKING MANY INDEPENDENTLY TIMED EVENTS.

From the date of communication of an invention within an organization's hierarchy, through the patent and licensing process of every invention in a grantee or contractor organization's portfolio, staff must keep track of reporting status. iEdison performs this critical task automatically. Once an invention report is entered, a tickler system is activated to automatically (and persistently) remind the user of actions that must be taken. Grantee and contractor organization staff will no longer need to spend time on this chore.

EXTRAMURAL INVENTION REPORTING DATA IS CONFIDENTIAL.

The grantee or contractor organization must be able to rely on the confidentiality of all information pertaining to its invention reports. iEdison agencies recognize this absolute requirement. iEdison's security ensures that only authorized users are allowed access only to records from their organizations.

EXTRAMURAL INVENTION REPORTING INVOLVES THE GENERATION OF REPORTS WITHIN EVERY ORGANIZATION.

Every organization wants reports on its invention status or documentation of its administrative actions. iEdison has a report generator built in; these reports have become standard for the iEdison community, and save staff time documenting invention, patent, and utilization report information for the entire portfolio, or only specific combinations of data fields that may be needed for specific administrative tasks.

EXTRAMURAL INVENTION REPORTING MAY INVOLVE USE BY AN ORGANIZATION OF AN EXISTING CUSTOMIZED DATABASE.

Some grantee or contractor organizations have their own systems to track inventions that have resulted from federal support. iEdison allows organizations to submit data via binary upload.

The computer-to-computer bulk transfer of data requires that the grantee or contractor organization's database administrator or technical-support specialist format the data destined for the iEdison system in a specific way. An explanation of the format is available here. Once the data is formatted, it may be uploaded through the Internet browser.

These features have been part of the iEdison system since it began in 1995, and reflect the progressive architecture that has become the standard for e-grants business between the federal government and its extramural community. Access to and controlled utilization of a common electronic file by both the federal government and grantee and contractor organizations characterize a number of application, monitoring, and tracking activities from the outset of a funding request through review, award, and post-award grant and contract administration.

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