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Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a generic term which encompasses all expressions of human creativity. If you own some Intellectual Property, then you are said to have Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). In general, IPRs are monopoly rights to use the intellectual property. There are many different ways in which rights may be asserted. Some of these are automatic, some require formal registration to achieve protection. In any case, it is for the owner of these rights to police for infringement. The different forms are summarised as:
  • Copyright
  • Design rights
  • Registered Trade Marks
  • Patents
  • Know-how
Any intellectual property rights are subject to limitations in several ways:
  • rights are restricted geographically
  • rights are limited by subject matter
  • rights are potentially limited by competition law
The University and You

Ownership of IPR is dealt with through UK statute and common law. In the UK, employees are subject to the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Patents Act 1977. The basic principle is that the employer will normally own the intellectual property rights to any work generated by the employee in the normal course of their employment. This is interpreted quite widely in the courts. To clarify the situation within the University the policy relating to intellectual property rights stated in the University's Financial Regulations, in financial procedure 13. In summary, this is as follows:

Financial Procedure 13:
  • Inventions made by all grades of academic staff and research staff, in the course of University duties or when using University premises are deemed to be relevant inventions
  • Registered students working on research projects are included in these provisions
  • University owns relevant inventions
  • Staff must disclose to the University and participate in applications for protection
  • University takes responsibility and pays for for protection, development and exploitation
  • Income generated as a result is then shared between the inventor(s) and the University

When IPR may arise as a result of your work, you should always:

  • Keep disclosure to a minimum
  • Not publish before filing date
  • Inform Warwick Ventures at the earliest opportunity
  • Keep good records - log books, dates and witness
  • Put copyright statements on computer software

Where to Get Advice Warwick Ventures can help with:

  • Dealing with patent agents - filing and searches
  • Negotiating ownership and exploitation of intellectual property rights with third parties and potential sponsors
  • Commercial exploitation

REMEMBER, Any public disclosure, whether by word of mouth, demonstration, publication of a paper or article, or advertisement could prevent award of, in particular, a patent. If third parties are involved it is essential that if a disclosure is made to them, they are bound by a confidentiality agreement. Warwick Ventures can help with this. (NOTE: A CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT IS NO GUARANTEE AGAINST UNSCRUPULOUS BUSINESS PRACTICES.) Disputes in this field are normally very difficult to prove and litigation is very costly, so it is essential that records are kept of any disclosure which takes place under such an agreement, with dates, times, individuals and details of disclosed information.

Other Useful Addresses
The following are some useful web sites and on-line data services which may be useful in relation to intellectual property. Access to most of these is free. Often initial patent searches can be conducted through the site's resident search engines. It should be remembered that the information ontained on these may nt be comprehensive, so searching through these sites is no substitute for a professional patent search.

Type of IPR
Subject Matter
Length of Protection
UK Legislation



Products and processes which are novel, involve a non-obvious inventive step and are capable of industrial application. There are a number of excluded classes such as mathematical algorithms, mathematical theories and the like.

20 years from date of filing.

The Patents Act 1977

Registered Trade Marks

Any sign capable of graphic representation that allows the customer to recognise the goods and services of one undertaking from those of another. A sign can include, for example, words, logos, colours, slogans, pictures, three-dimensional shapes, sounds, gestures or a combination of these.

Renewable every 10 years on payment of renewal fees, with no maximum time limit.

Trade Marks Act 1994.

Registered Designs

An internal or external aspect of design which is "new" and has "individual character" or "eye appeal". It is a right for the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or its ornamentation.

Renewable every 5 years up to a maximum of 25 years

Registered Designs Act 1949, as amended by The Registered Designs Regulations 2001.



Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes and typographical arrangements. Copyright also protects computer programs and computer source code.

General rule is the life of the author plus 70 years.

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Unregistered Design Rights

Any original aspect of shape or configuration may be whole or part of an article whether it is the interior or exterior.

15 years from creation or 10 years from first marketing.

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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