- What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property (IP) can be defined as any novel or previously undescribed invention, process, machine, composition of matter, life form, article of manufacture, software, data, written work, design or image, and know-how and information associated with the above. Intellectual Property may or may not be protectable under legislation, and may be tangible (e.g. biological organisms, plant varieties, computer software, engineering drawings etc.) or intangible (e.g. patents, copyrights, ideas, tacit knowledge etc.). IP is owned by individuals, organizations, institutions etc., and can be bought, sold or licensed. It is therefore essential that IP be adequately protected.
Patents, registered designs, trade marks and copyright are the most common ways of protecting IP and preventing others from using or otherwise exploiting it without the owner's permission. Other types of IP include circuit layout rights, plant breeders' rights and trade secrets. Although each is a separate area of law, all are designed to provide some protection against the unauthorized use of products of the human mind, particularly if such use provides an unfair trade advantage.
IP allows people to own their creativity and innovation in the same way that they can own physical property. The owner of IP can control, and be rewarded for, its use, and this encourages further innovation and creativity to the benefit of us all.
- What constitutes an invention?
An invention is a novel and useful idea relating to processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. It is probable that an invention has been made when something new and useful has been conceived or developed, or when unusual, unexpected, or non-obvious results have been obtained and can be exploited. An invention may be the product of a single individual or a group of individuals who have collaborated on a project.
- Who is an inventor?
According to US patent law, inventors are those who have made independent, original, conceptual contributions to an invention. For the purposes of its Intellectual Property Policy, the MRC refers to individuals that contribute to inventions as either IP creators or IP enablers. IP Creator(s) are individuals who are deemed to have made an intellectual contribution to the creation and/or development of IP. They do not include individuals that have only carried out the tasks or supplied materials, and are not necessarily those appearing as authors on a scientific publication. IP Enabler(s) are individuals who have indirectly contributed to the creation and/or application of Intellectual Property and without whose intellectual contribution commercial application would not have been possible. Assistants, technicians and others who have contributed in taking the idea or concept to fruition may be considered as IP Enablers. IP enablers do not necessarily qualify as inventors for patenting purposes.
- Who owns the invention?
As described in the MRC's Intellectual Property Policy, the MRC, in most cases, owns all IP generated by MRC-supported researchers. Where IP emanates from external MRC units, the IP is jointly owned with the relevant university. The IC acts on behalf of the MRC and the researcher(s) to transfer inventions to the marketplace. Any revenue generated from the successful transfer of the invention is then divided proportionately between the IC, the MRC, the MRC unit where the invention was made, and the researcher(s).