Software and Database FAQs

I was a co-creator of a database with a colleague who has now gone to work for another NHS trust. The database is still in use here but has been significantly modified since he left and he wants to use it at his new trust. What are his rights?

Your former colleague would be able to use the database in the format in which it was when he left your trust for personal work and research with permission from his former employer, although he must beware the rules regarding data protection and patient records. He cannot however use the database in any form for commercial purposes, install it for widespread use around his new trust or develop it further without approaching his former employer for a licence to do so.

I created a clinical database which I published a couple of years ago. Yesterday, I came across a newly published database in the same field which had the same fields and arrangement of the contents as mine. Have any of my rights been infringed and what can I do about it?

It is likely that your copyright has been infringed if the arrangement of the contents of your database showed originality. In this case you should contact either your IP lead or Medipex for clarification of the situation before proceeding any further

I have created a piece of medical software which I have made freely available on the internet. I have been contacted by an American company who have alleged that I have infringed one of their patents. What should I do?

If the software in question is hosted on a website in such a way that it is not available in the US, then it may be arguable that you have not infringed a US patent. However, the mere location of the computer hosting the software may not be enough to preclude infringement of US patent rights. If the software is protected by a European patent, because it relates to a technical invention, then there may be a risk that the patent has been infringed. However, because it is on the internet then it is likely to be available in the US, or to have effect in the US, which is where any more general patent is likely to exist. In any cases such as these you should immediately get in contact with Medipex.

A couple of years ago I created a piece of software and now someone else has produced a piece of software which does exactly the same function. Have any of my rights been violated?

Unless they have directly copied a substantial part of the code of your software then it is unlikely that any of your rights have been violated. If a substantial part of your code has been copied, then your copyright may have been breached and you should contact either your IP lead or Medipex.

I have created a clinical database which I gave a copy of to a colleague working in the same discipline at another trust. Recently, I came across a newsletter from that trust saying that she has just won an innovation award for the database. Upon further investigation it would appear that all she has done is to re-arrange the contents. Have any of my rights been infringed and do I have any claim on the award?

So long as you created the database at some point in the last 15 years, then in this case, it is likely that database right has been infringed because the contents of the database have been re-arranged. You should inform your IP lead and Medipex of the situation.

I have created some electronic training materials which are distributed on a CD-ROM but which use MPEG-2 files. I know that these files are protected by patents but do I have to get permission to use this file format in my materials?

There is no need to get permission to use these files in your training materials; the patents only protect the algorithms in the software and the way the software works from being copied, not the actual use of the files.

I have invented a novel computer algorithm for use in medical imaging. Can I patent it so that it is protected?

Under current UK and European law you may be able to patent the algorithm in the UK and elsewhere in Europe if there is an improvement in the technical quality of the image (although this is a difficult are of law with grey boundaries), but copyright law would protect you against anyone copying it. However, you should be able to patent the software in the USA if you so wished.

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Further information or advice

Please contact Medipex on 0113 397 0830.