Research and knowledge exchange

Intellectual property rights

An Introduction to IP

The University encourages the development, protection and commercialisation of research results arising from its research activities across all academic disciplines. As a publicly funded institution we are under an obligation to ensure that our research outputs are used for public benefit. Research projects funded by industrial organisations, charities, research councils or the like recognise the importance of generating intellectual property and obtaining IP rights to optimise the use of research outputs for public and commercial benefit.

Intellectual property rights are legal rights that are generated from intellectual thoughts, activities and creations. They may arise automatically on creation of a work, e.g. copyright comes into existence on writing a research article, or they may arise through registration, e.g. applying to obtain a patent for an invention or applying to obtain a registered design for a product. IP rights are intangible assets that can add value to creations and such rights are property rights meaning that they can be sold, mortgaged or licensed like all other property.

Research can generate valuable know-how – in the form of ideas, knowledge, technical data, formulae, specifications, designs, drawings, processes and methods – and patentable inventions which can be licensed to other organisations for further development and funding opportunities and for commercial use. The University actively encourages the filing of patent applications for novel and useful inventions and many industrially-funded research projects specifically require the filing of patent protection for the research that is being sponsored.

What can be protected?

A wide variety of ideas or inventions can be protected by patents. Patents are often used to protect novel and innovative products and how they work and processes or methods for making products or doing things. A non-exhaustive list of the types of inventions that can be protected by patents include:

  • Apparatus, devices, products, equipment, machinery and tools for different applications or purposes;
  • Processes, manufacturing procedures and industrial techniques;
  • Chemical, biological and microbiological materials, compounds and substances;
  • Pharmaceuticals, drugs and pharmaceutical kits;
  • Nucleotides, proteins, peptides, antibodies, plasmids, cell lines and DNA sequences;
  • Micro-organisms, transgenic organisms and animal models;
  • Medical treatment regimes, diagnostic kits and assays;
  • Computer programs, hardware and software.

Copyright can be used to protect various creative works, such as literary works (e.g. books, articles, computer programs, databases, songs), dramatic works (e.g. dance acts, plays, concerts), musical works (e.g. songs, musical arrangements), artistic works (e.g. paintings, drawings, maps, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, buildings), sound recordings, films and broadcasts, and typographical arrangements of published editions.

Registered Designs

Registered designs can be used to protect the external appearance of products resulting from their colours, shape, texture and materials. Products including industrial and handicraft items, modular systems, packaging, graphic symbols, and typographic type-faces are covered by this right. Examples of specific products that can be protected include icons for computer screens and mobile phones, logos, screen displays, consumer gadgets, board games, and furniture.

Unregistered Design Rights

Unregistered design rights can be used to protect the shape or configuration of products or articles. Examples of the type of products that can be protected generally include products that are functional in nature, such as spare parts for appliances, machinery and vehicles, food and drink containers, furniture, tools, utensils, packaging and mobile phones.

Trade Marks

Trade marks include signs, names, colours, sounds, designs, letters, numerals, the shape of goods or their packaging, that can distinguish the products or services of different undertakings. Trade marks can be registered and they often become associated with the quality and consumer expectations of a product or service.

University Policy on IP

Research may generate several IP rights that co-exist in the ideas and creations. These rights may be able to be exploited in different ways.

The University operates a Policy on Exploitation and Commercialisation of Intellectual Property [PDF 106.51KB] which sets out its approach to IP and ways in which the University looks to exploit IP. The policy provides a monetary scheme to incentivise the commercial development and exploitation of IP, such that if IP is successfully exploited commercially, the individuals who created the IP will share the financial reward with their School and the University (please see Section G of the policy).

What should I do if I have created some IP?

If you think that you have created some IP, such as know-how, an invention, an innovative product, software, a mobile app, an online game, a database of useful information, etc. that might be able to be used for public or commercial benefit, please speak to your contact in R&E or the IP Manager directly.

We can discuss with you the idea, what IP rights are applicable, and how the IP could be protected most effectively.

We will ask you to complete and submit an IP Disclosure Form [DOC 109.50KB]. This will help us to assess the idea and the IP, and we will seek further information from you if we need to do so.

If you would like to submit an IP Disclosure Form [DOC 109.50KB] straight away, please complete and return it to the IP Manager. If you would also like to provide any supporting documents, e.g. draft research paper describing the IP, prior research publications or patents, background information or experimental data, that might help in the assessment of the IP, please also supply such information.

What happens after I submit the completed IP Disclosure Form?

We will acknowledge receipt and start to assess the idea and the IP from the information you have given us. We may need to contact you if we have any queries or need further information.

R&E and the Innovation Support team at the Innovation Centre will discuss your idea, project or opportunity with you. Advice will be provided on IP protection and some initial market investigation may be performed at this stage. R&E and the Innovation Centre will help you to present your idea, project or opportunity to the Enterprise Panel.

The Enterprise Panel administers the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) to enable the development of applied research and commercially attractive IP in order to increase research income and generate external interest. For example, the EDF can provide a grant to pay for IP protection, fund the development of a Proof-of-Concept prototype to aid commercial exploitation, and fund the development of software or a web-based service offering.

Further information on the operation of the Enterprise Panel and the EDF can be found in the Enterprise Development Fund [PDF 122.31KB] document.

What happens if I receive funding from the Enterprise Panel?

Congratulations! R&E and the Innovation Centre will work closely with you to ensure that the work or activity being funded is carried out efficiently and in the most effective way. Where IP protection is to be sought, R&E will handle this for you. Where market research is needed or market-specific literature needs to be created, the Innovation Centre will handle this for you. Regular updates on the progress of the work or activity will be provided to the Enterprise Panel.

R&E and the Innovation Centre will work with you to develop and exploit the idea, project or opportunity for public or commercial benefit. We will assist you in finding customers and negotiate any agreements that are required for customers to use the IP.

Listed below are some recent case studies where funding has been provided by the Enterprise Panel for opportunities originating from the School of Engineering and Informatics, the Schools of Business, Management and Economics and of Law, Politics and Sociology, and the School of Psychology.

Electric Potential Sensing Technology (EPS) [PDF 2.40MB]

International Trade Policy Analysis (TradeSift) [PDF 1.08MB]

Sussex Ingestion Pattern Monitor (SIPM) [PDF 1.27MB]

Marketing the IP

Besides the academic publication of research, the University looks to advertise and market any IP as effectively as possible in order to enhance the prospect of exploiting the IP for public or commercial benefit. Where the IP relates to a patentable invention, any marketing or public disclosure of it does not take place until a patent has been filed for the invention.