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Research considerations

Can I publish my research and then protect my intellectual property?

Generally no. Sometimes it is possible to navigate a path through publication, publishing only material that does not make the core of the invention obvious to the reader. However, this is a technically difficult tightrope and high-risk. The general advice to ‘Protect first - then Publish’.

Patent rights are affected by publication because the publication will render the patent application not novel.  We encourage you to submit an IDF well before any public communication of the invention. Once publicly disclosed, published or presented in any form, an invention may have restricted or minimal potential for patent protection. Know-how, is centred on confidentiality and so is also significantly devalued.

When you submit an IDF, you should inform us of any imminent or prior presentation, lecture, poster, abstract, website description, research proposal submission, dissertation/master’s thesis, publication, or other public presentation of the invention. The Commercial Development team will work with you to help manage and optimise the publication and protection process to secure the best possible outcomes.

May I use material or IP from others in my research?

Yes, but often it will require the IP owner’s permission to use the IP. There is a research exemption related to the use of patents, but this exemption is quite limited in its application. The terms of how the IP owner allows you to use their IP will determine if it can be used for just research or both research and commercialisation. It is important to document carefully the date and conditions of use so that we can determine if its use may influence the commercialisation potential of your subsequent research results. If you wish to obtain materials from outside collaborators, an incoming Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) should be completed. If we have signed a confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with a collaborator you cannot use that information for any purpose other than specified in the agreement and under no circumstance can you publish it. Speak to the Commercial Development team for more information on incoming MTAs, NDAs and other collaborative agreements.

Will I be able to share material, research data or IP with others to further their research?

Yes, but not freely. The exchange of any material, research data or IP should be documented. It is imperative to document items that are to be shared with others and define the conditions of use of these items. If you wish to send materials to an outside collaborator, an outgoing MTA should be completed for this purpose. It may also be necessary to have a NDA completed in order to protect your research results or IP. For Life Science-related projects or research involving human subjects or animals, ethical approval may be required, or data protection laws might apply. It is recommended you contact the Contracting team  ( Research Governance team ( ) for more information.

What rights does a research funder have to any discoveries associated with my research? 

This will depend on the type of funder, the type of funding, and the specific conditions of the collaboration or grant agreement (Research Agreement) signed at the outset of the project. The Research Agreement should specify the IP rights of the funder.

Typically, where the funder is a government or EU agency or body, the University will have ownership of the IP resulting from the research. However, the funder may have rights to obtain a licence to the IP arising from the research, or rights to publish the outcomes.

Where a funder is a company they will either have direct ownership of the resulting IP, or have commercial access rights to it. Often a sponsored research contract can allow the funder a limited time option to negotiate a commercial licence for any IP developed as the result of the research.

In general, research funders will not have any contractual rights to discoveries that are clearly outside of the scope of the research and which are not created as a direct result of the funded research.