Intellectual Property

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) is ideas, information and knowledge. In an NHS context IP can be viewed as the results and outcomes of research – ‘intellectual’ because it is creative output and ‘property’ because it is viewed as a tradable commodity.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are specific legal rights which protect the owners of IP.  IPR can be subdivided into the major categories below.

What is Copyright?

Copyright covers written information (such as leaflets, articles, assessment tools and training packs), databases, computer software and films/videos, which can all be protected by copyright (see Appendix 2). Copyright is achieved automatically, when the IP is created. However, it is advisable to attach a statement for additional protection, to  pictures and scans. 

 © 2018 Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the copyright owner. 

What is a Patent?

Patents can be used to protect inventions that embody a new idea and are capable of being made or used by industry (such as devices, processes or methods of operation). Exclusions from this include methods of treatment of the human/animal body by surgery or therapy, or methods of diagnosis. An invention must not have been made public anywhere in the world prior to the patent filing date (including journals, the internet, meetings, posters, etc.) and must not be obvious, compared to what is already known to someone who is experienced in the relevant field.  

What is a Design Right?

Design Right protects against deliberate copying of the shape or  configuration of an article. Design Right may exist in addition to other forms of protection such as Patent, Copyright or Registered Design.  

Unregistered Design Rights

Unregistered Design Rights are not directly associated with appearance. The right can protect internal and external features but only gives protection against copying of features of shape and configuration (e.g. physical design of computer chips, engineering components and architectural drawings). 

Registered Design Rights

In some new products, the novelty lies not in a new idea or principle but in their appearance. Registered Design Rights usually cover commercial objects with a unique or aesthetic appearance.  

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a sign or symbol that is used to distinguish a product or service from that produced or supplied by another business. It could be the design of a label or the shape of a product’s packaging (for example, the Coca-Cola bottle). The term “sign” includes logos, slogans, words, colours and 3-D shapes. 

 Registering a trademark protects the owner from competitors also trying to use that image to promote their own products. Trademarks can be very valuable in keeping that product as a market leader.  

What is know-how?

Confidential information or “Know-how” is information which may be commercially or technically valuable and which is regarded as secret. It may, for example, include information on industrial processes or be a list of clients.  

 In all cases, the “know-how” will only retain its value if it is managed effectively. All exploitation partners, business partners and collaborators should be bound by conditions of confidentiality through a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA). This may be a reciprocal agreement whereby confidential information is both disclosed and received. A CDA may be obtained from the Trust R&I Office. 

Know-how and confidential information can be bought, sold and licensed like any other form of IP and persist indefinitely, as long as they remain “secret”. 

Understanding IP– support from the Intellectual Property office

An overview from Intellectual Property Office

IP Basics

Videos from the Intellectual Property Office  

University of Manchester guides