Enterprise Development

Intellectual Property Rights Policy

Intellectual property rights include patents, registered designs, copyright, design rights and know-how. Creative work, including research and development, can lead to intellectual property rights and some of these can be protected under one or more headings. In some cases, registration and official examination are required e.g. for patents, this can be a costly business. Copyright, inter alia the protection for computer software, is automatic and free (although less easy to defend).

In general terms, and specifically in patent law, the IPR created during an employee’s normal or specifically assigned activities belongs to the employer. This means the most of the IPR arising from the activities of University teaching and research staff belongs to the University. On the other hand, IPR generated by ancillary staff may not, nor will IPR generated by students. Where IPR is generated by a student either alone or as part of a team, the student may be invited to assign the rights to the University for exploitation. He or she will then be treated on the same basis as a member of staff.

Where work is being carried out under contract from an outside organisation, specific provisions about IPR may apply. For instance, staff and students may be requested to assign their rights to the sponsor, usually in exchange for some benefit.

Research and Regional Services should be advised of all potential IPR as soon as it is perceived and before information is given to any third party. Disclosure to others may not only invalidate steps to obtain protection but could result in the inventors and the University being excluded from subsequent exploitation by others. Discussions with third party potential partners should only take place after the exchange of a confidentiality agreement. Papers should not be submitted for publication before protection has been considered. Research and Regional Services will advise on the steps can/should be taken, and if the University decides to proceed, will make all the necessary arrangements. The University normally meets all the legal costs of applying for protection. Where the University decides not to proceed, the member of staff would normally be free to seek protection independently.

The prospect of profitable exploitation is the normal reason for the University seeking protection. Research and Regional Services will work with the ‘inventors’ and other bodies to try and achieve this. Exploitation may be by licensing or assignment to another organization or by an arrangement with Research and Regional Services. ‘Inventors’ will be fully involved in discussions at all stages.

Research Council contracts require the University to identify and seek to exploit all intellectual property rights arising from Research Council funded work. An annual report on progress is required and Research and Regional Services co-ordinates the preparation of this.

Where IPR is exploited appropriate arrangements will be made to distribute any income received by the University, less any costs incurred in seeking legal protection but ignoring research costs preceding the discovery.

The division of income is a matter for Standing Committee. The normal practice in this University over many years has been to make 50% of net income available to the inventor(s), 25% to the School(s) and 25% in central University funds. The arrangement is more generous than the statutory awards to employees whose patents have been of ‘outstanding benefit’ to the employer.