Medical research charities want patients to benefit from the research they fund. Protecting discoveries and exploiting intellectual property (IP) are vital stages in the development of new drugs and treatments. If IP is not protected, there is nothing to stop someone else from copying the design or process without consent or payment.

IP protection falls into four categories:

  • Copyright protects written, dramatic and artistic works, software, films, sounds and broadcasts.
  • Patents protect technical inventions like novel products or processes.
  • Trademarks distinguish the goods and services of one organisation from another.
  • Design rights protect the visual appearance of products.

Patents and trademarks need to be registered, copyrights and design rights do not.

Contacts or terms and conditions of research grants should specify who owns IP arising from the project and how it will be monitored and any revenue shared. Inventions in medical research are often based on research from a number of projects, and have layers of IP with different institutions and funders who have all been involved. 

AMRC's revised Guidelines on IP terms and conditions provide advice for medical research charities to ensure that IP arising from the research they fund is appropriately protected. This is recommended reading but only guidance and not something we insist members adhere to. The guidance is for members to adopt as they see fit and it is understood that not all members will adopt it entirely.

Charities that are interested in funding research that may generate IP should also consider how they are helping protect and exploit IP. AMRC's Benefiting from innovation: intellectual property advice for medical research charities provides more information and case studies that can help.