Working in collaboration

In any research or product development project it is often common to be working in collaboration with other individuals, research groups or companies.

This may have many benefits including the sharing of specialist knowledge, additional finance, additional publications, the sharing of expensive equipment and access to resources you may not otherwise have (e.g. patient samples). All this may be of benefit to your work/research, but if a potentially useful technology is developed as a result of this collaboration, then any IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) that may subsist in it might not solely belong to you (or your employer) as it is likely that your collaborators (and/or research funder) will also have a claim on any IPR generated. Although most research in the NHS is not undertaken for commercial gain, the perceived value of such work may be very significant to others (particularly where a clear clinical outcome is evident) and it is important that any rights are protected appropriately and ownership correctly determined.

It is the policy of Medipex’s member NHS organisations that if there is any involvement of NHS staff or NHS resources in a project where IPR has been generated, then some of the rights emanating from that project will belong to that NHS organisation. If your collaborators are working within the same institution as you (e.g. hospital trust) then working out how each group should benefit from any commercial exploitation of IPR should not be too much of a problem, but if they are working for a different organisation then it is likely that there may be joint ownership of IP; from the perspective of international patent laws it is important that IP ownership is correctly attributed as stating the wrong ownership on a patent application may lead to that patent application being invalidated later in the process. Working out IPR ownership can often be a complex and time consuming process, but it is one of the roles that Medipex undertakes on behalf of its member NHS organisations, so do not let this issue discourage you from forming collaborations that may benefit your research. At the start of any collaborative project it is advisable for suitable agreements to be put in place prior to any work being carried out. This fact sheet highlights some of the common questions that Medipex are asked, although you should contact Medipex for specific advice when entering into a collaborative research project, especially if the output of that work is likely to have commercial benefits. 

As an independent organisation Medipex will always give impartial advice on IP ownership on any project.

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This information has been produced in conjunction with Urquhart-Dykes and Lord, Patent Attorneys (telephone 0113 245 2388 or email email@udl.co.uk). It is provided for the purposes of information only and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to working in collaboration. In any cases where you have concerns or require advice regarding intellectual property matters, you should get in touch with your IP lead or email Medipex.

For more information read our Working in collaboration FAQs.