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Have Intellectual Property? Disclose Here

For Francis “Wink” Crittenden, Ph.D., a great day at work means at getting least one problem solved. Fortunately for Crittenden, a licensing associate with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)’s Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE), the nature of his job – and the quality of his team – usually means he has a great day.

“I love the teamwork required to get anything done,” Crittenden said. “Here, I only work with top-shelf problem solvers. I think our office has amazing synergy.”

After Crittenden received his Ph.D. in 2016, he taught biology courses in college for approximately five years, but found himself frustrated with the lack of connection and collaboration with students – especially when COVID-19 hit. He joined the nationwide “Great Resignation” of 2021, and a friend working at UAB told him about an open licensing associate position with the HIIE, which houses UAB’s technology transfer office. Francis "Wink" CrittendenFrancis "Wink" Crittenden. 

Licensing associates guide inventors through UAB’s internal procedures for disclosing and commercializing intellectual property, including through the processes of patenting, licensing, and launching start-ups.

Although Crittenden was totally new to the field of technology transfer, he loved the potential impact he could have.

Now, after more than two years in his licensing associate position, that potential impact has become reality.

“The things I spend my time on are things that have the potential to create tremendous value beyond the scope of the university,” he said. “Every day is completely different, and that’s part of the appeal. Some days, I’m trying to wrangle a deal through to completion. Other days, I’m trying to do outreach to faculty.”

Crittenden’s portfolio of intellectual property includes artificial intelligence/machine learning innovations, other software, medical devices, engineering and computer hardware, and optometry/ophthalmology inventions. While he can and does work with inventors across all UAB departments, he chiefly focuses on Dentistry, Engineering, Emergency Medicine, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Otolaryngology, Radiation/Oncology, Radiology, Surgery, General Internal Medicine, Gerontology/Palliative Care, and Preventative Medicine.

Crittenden said he would recommend all UAB faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students reach out to the HIIE if they have any questions about intellectual property and the protection process.

“Even if you don’t have any IP yet, we can help point you towards an approach that would result in IP,” he said.

Crittenden urges potential inventors to see the big picture when approaching the HIIE.

“We’re not just the ‘patent office.’ Many inventors only come to us when they want to file a patent, without stopping to think about why a patent should be filed,” he said. “Everything I do in my job is done with the ultimate goal of getting the innovations developed at UAB out into the world in a way that creates the most possible value for UAB, the inventors, and anyone else who might benefit from the invention.”

To learn more about the basics of commercialization at UAB, visit the HIIE's Policies & FAQs page, which includes our Inventors' Guide.

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