Intellectual Property for Researchers

What is intellectual property and who owns the intellectual property I create?

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) includes creations and/or material that may be registered or protected under the patent, trademark and/or copyright laws, or by contract; and knowledge that cannot be protected under these laws, such as non-patentable creations and know-how.  This might include databases, datasets, material on websites, blogs, wikis and podcasts.

Patentable subject matter includes processes, machines, compositions of matter, articles, some computer programs, and methods, including methods of making compositions, methods of making articles, and even methods of performing business.  Most software cannot be patented, but is protected by copyright, and often the source code is kept as a trade secret.  Specific protection is available for the IP contained in an integrated electronic circuit (chip) design.  Drug targets – molecules that could potentially be manipulated by drugs to treat disease – are usually not patentable, but can become valuable IP with further development.  Medical diagnostic methods are usually not patentable in the US, but sometimes are in Australia.  Contact your Business Development Manager if you wish to discuss in more detail.

Research tools that you have created in your lab might be very beneficial to other researchers and represent valuable IP with the potential for significant impact, especially in the life sciences.  These tools might include materials such as antibodies, vectors, plasmids, cell lines, mice, and other materials used in the research process.

The University of Melbourne's IP Policy

The University’s approach to IP ownership and management is contained in section 13 of the University of Melbourne Statute. These policies aim to foster a culture that supports knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and entrepreneurial endeavour, through net commercial revenue sharing with creators.

All University staff, honorary appointees, visitors, and student creators of IP have a responsibility to identify, protect, manage and be involved in the commercialisation of IP.  In particular, you have a specific  duty to disclose IP with potential commercial value or where required by specified agreements. In the absence of any other agreement reached between the relevant parties, the University will ensure that the net proceeds of commercialisation are distributed as follows:

40 percent
Creators' faculty or school
40 percent
University central
20 percent

Duty of IP disclosure

All UoM researchers have an obligation to disclose all new intellectual property to the University via their Business Development Manager.  You need to do so whenever you have discovered or created something unique that might have commercial value, solve a significant problem, or could be made into a product or service by an industry partner.  Please do this well before presenting the discovery through publications, poster sessions, conferences, press releases, or other communications – ideally several months before doing so, at the draft manuscript stage – and before talking to any external parties, especially prospective investors.  When you disclose your intellectual property to the University, it starts a process that could lead to the commercialisation of your discovery or creation.  This may involve initiating the IP protection process for your invention and working to identify outside development partners.  If industry or government funds were used for your research, you might have obligations and reporting requirements to the funding party.

It’s not always clear if a creation or discovery represents intellectual property.  To find out whether you have intellectual property that can be further developed, talk with your Business Development Manager and they will help assess your intellectual property.

Who is considered a creator?

Acoording to section 7 of the University's Intellectual Property Policy:

Creator means any member of staff, students, honorary appointees or visitors who create any intellectual property whether or not in conjunction with other persons

The term inventor has a particular meaning in patent law, and the definition of creator used here is broader than the usual meaning of inventor.

Who owns my IP?

The University of Melbourne Statute states that ownership of IP depends upon the nature of your affiliation with the University, and your use of University facilities.

Contact us

For intellectual property and technology transfer related advice and assistance, contact:

  • Hun Gan, Director, Business Development and Innovation
  • Lachlan Wilson, Associate Director, Technology Transfer & Licensing (Acting)

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