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How to deal with the university in the protection of your IP rights?

Navigating the complex world of intellectual property (IP) can pose significant challenges for startup companies, particularly when collaborating with universities. Here are some essential tips every startup should consider protecting their IP effectively in these partnerships:

Understand University IP Policies

Before you collaborate with a university, it’s vital to fully understand the university’s IP policies. Universities frequently assert ownership over IP developed using their resources or by their staff, including students. Make sure to review these policies to grasp your rights and responsibilities fully.

Negotiate IP Ownership Early

Start your collaboration with clear negotiations on IP ownership. This includes determining who holds the IP rights to any developments, under what conditions, and how these rights might be affected if the project grows or changes. Getting these details sorted early can prevent complications later on.

Secure Confidentiality Agreements

It’s essential to have confidentiality agreements in place with the university and any involved students or faculty. These agreements should comprehensively cover all sensitive information shared during the collaboration to prevent the unauthorised use or disclosure of your proprietary ideas and technologies.

Be Cautious with Publications

Avoid publishing details about your IP that could compromise its novelty. Public disclosures can render an invention non-patentable, severely impacting your competitive edge.

Document Everything

Maintain meticulous records of all research, development, and innovation activities, particularly those that may lead to patentable inventions or copyrightable works. Detailed documentation of the process and contributions of each party is vital for establishing ownership and the origins of the IP.

Utilise Proper Licensing Agreements

If the university owns any IP that your startup requires, negotiate a licensing agreement that meets the needs of your company. Ensure the terms provide adequate freedom to commercialise the technology, including provisions for sublicensing if necessary.

Monitor and Enforce IP Rights

Keep a regular check on how your IP is being used and ensure that any violations are promptly addressed. This includes monitoring the university’s use and any third parties involved in the collaboration. Swift action against unauthorised use is essential to safeguard the integrity and value of your IP.

Plan for Patent Filing

Be strategic about disclosing your IP publicly if you intend to file for a patent. Decide on a filing strategy and determine who will be the owners of the patent before disclosing any details publicly.

Consult with IP Experts

Engage with solicitors or IP experts who specialise in university collaborations. They can offer valuable advice on drafting agreements, navigating university policies, and ensuring your IP rights are thoroughly protected throughout the collaboration.

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