Intellectual property rights in research collaborations

From The Embassy of Good Science

Intellectual property rights in research collaborations

What is this about?

When research produces new inventions and ideas, these can be protected in the form of intellectual property (IP) rights. “Intellectual property includes all exclusive rights to intellectual creations. It encompasses two types of rights: industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs and models and designations of origin, and copyright, which includes artistic and literary property”. [1] Countries have their own legislation concering IP rights. Examples of IP rights are patents, copyright and trademarks.

Why is this important?

IP rights allow individuals or organizations to earn recognition or to benefit financially from their inventions.[1] In addition, IP rights stimulate creativity and let innovations flourish.[2] Before the start of a research project, all stakeholders should make an agreement concerning ownership of IP rights. Research funding organizations and private companies are important stakeholders, when it comes to research that may result in development of intellectual property.

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

According to their policy on IP rights, the Dutch funder ZonMw states that when a contract is written, the IP rights derived from a project belong to the research performing institution. However, when the IP rights are not exploited adequately, ZonMw can interfere, in order to increase the impact of the research. Moreover, when considering public-private partnerships in funding, the research performing organization needs to have a strong judicial position. Therefore, research institutes are encouraged to seek legal expertise or request advice from ZonMw. This is to ensure that the IP is not exploited by other private, commericial and industrial institutions, as has happened in the past.

The European IPR Helpdesk has developed a fact sheet on IP management for Horizon 2020 projects.[1] The factsheet includes guidance on IP rights in a research proposal. It suggests the following:

  • Proposals should describe how results will be protected from commercial and industrial exploitations
  • Within multi-center research, the involved institutes need to organise ownership and access of rights and include the economic conditions of dividing the rights
  • Proposals should state how joint ownership for expected jointly-owned results will be organized. For example, third-party licensing needs to be considered
  • Proposals should consider the exploitation of research results (see Figure 1)
  • Proposals should indicate the confidentiality measures that need to be put in place
  • “When defining the management structure, applicants should consider the management of intellectual property rights. A committee for exploitation and intellectual property or a manager could be considered and even a consulting body of external experts from industry.”

Other information