WHY NOT YOU?
IP RIGHTS ESTABLISHED BY LAW
We’ve already considered why scientists need to think of Intellectual Property (IP) as ‘creations of the mind’ and explained that IP rights are established either by law or through legal agreements.
Here are the key points you should know about those rights established by law.
PATENTS PROTECT THE FUNCTIONAL FEATURES OF A PRODUCT OR PROCESS
Compounds, compositions, processes, Genetic Modified Organisms and bioinformatic applications can be protected through patents if they are: novel, inventive and have industrial applicability. They are not necessarily excluded from patentability under the rules that apply to IP protection.
New uses for existing products/compounds/compositions might also be patentable in special cases.
In bioinformatics, patenting may be a relevant protection right where an invention, offering a technical output, is implemented via a code. In Europe, ideas that lack a ‘technical effect’ cannot be patented (other jurisdictions may take a different approach).
PLANT BREEDERS’ RIGHTS PROTECT NEW PLANT VARIETIES
Plant Breeders’ Rights stop companies from reproducing a commercial variety protected by their competitors for sale in the market without the rights owner’s permission. However, the system is set up in a way to allow companies to use their competitors’ materials as initial breeding lines to produce new varieties of their own. So, in a way the protected material can be used for innovation.
In order to be considered eligible for protection, a new variety must be: distinct (i.e. have different characteristics to other plants of the same species); uniform (i.e. all plants in the variety must share the same characteristics); and stable (i.e. remain unchanged after repeated propagation).
COPYRIGHTS APPLY TO SEVERAL OUTPUTS TYPICAL OF RESEARCH
These include publications, databases, computer software and apps, common outputs from agricultural researcher. Protection is granted automatically as soon as work is created.
DATABASE RIGHTS ARE GRANTED FOR SUBSTANTIAL INVESTMENT INTO OBTAINING, VERIFYING OR PRESENTING DATA
In this context, databases are defined as a collection of independent data arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic or other means.
Protection is granted automatically against extraction and use of all or ‘substantial part’ of a database.
However, repeated and systematic extraction or re‐utilisation of insubstantial parts may eventually be considered a substantial part.
KNOW-HOW IS ALSO A TYPE OF IP – BUT ONE WHICH YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP SECRET
Sometimes organisations choose to keep internal procedures, tricks of the trade and practical knowledge confidential.
The formula for Coca-Cola is possibly the most widely-used example of this.
It’s important to remember: protection only lasts for as long as information remains secret!
REGISTERED DESIGNS PROTECT THE APPEARANCE OF A PRODUCT
Sometimes your work might result in the design of a physical product. If the appearance of the product is important to you, then a registered design can stop others from using the design.
As with patent applications, an application should be filed before your design is made public.
UNREGISTERED DESIGNS PROTECT THE SHAPE AND CONFIGURATION OF A PRODUCT
Whilst it is necessary to file an application for a registered design to protect the appearance of a product, unregistered design right is automatic. Whilst it doesn’t last for long as a registered design, it can still be very useful.
TRADE MARKS PROTECT A BRAND NAME OR COMPANY NAME
When collaborating with external partners, academic organisations want to ensure their brand and company name is being used in an appropriate manner.
Trade marks ensure their rights in stopping other organisations from claiming product endorsements or a nature of relationship that is not agreed, should an issue arise.