BootcampC: Data ownership and timescales for IP protection

Data ownership and timescales for IP protection

Section 2 of 5

Signature image cropImage: Signature [cropped], edar, Public Domain

If you are considering commercially exploiting your research outputs, the first things you should consider are whether you own the outputs, and the timeframe in which you need to publish your findings.

Who owns it?

You cannot commercialise or publish a dataset that belongs to someone else without explicit permission. The University normally has ownership of primary data generated in the course of research undertaken by researchers in its employment, but grants, contracts or collaboration agreements may set out different terms for data ownership. Students typically own their own IP, but again this may vary between projects. If your dataset includes content generated by someone else, their content may have a licence governing the terms under which it can be re-used.

If the University owns the data, Research Commercialisation can help you apply for patents and decide on licences.

If you are at the beginning of a project, contact the DREI Contracts Team to make sure you are using collaboration agreements that will permit you to exploit your research outputs. The Contracts Team can also help you to understand the implications of existing agreements for projects that are already underway.

How long do I have?

Applying for patents or deciding on an appropriate licence or other forms of IP protection takes time. Initial patent filing typically takes three months, and it can take up to eighteen months for the patent to be published and several years for it to be granted. If elements of your research are published before your patent is filed this may void your patent application. Once your patent has been filed, you can safely publish papers and data relating to your application, even before the patent has been formally granted.

However, this does not have to prevent you from making your data available to others. For example, you can publish your data under an embargo, so it will only become available once your patent filing or licensing arrangements are complete. You may also be able to publish your data with usage restrictions such as a non-disclosure agreement.

Contact Research Commercialisation to find out whether you need to delay publication or to apply an embargo or access restrictions. This should be done as early as possible, and ideally well before you start submitting papers for publication. The Research Data Service or your chosen data repository can then help you to set up embargoes or access restrictions if these are required.


1. Anna has written a piece of software depending on third-party code published under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). Can she commercially exploit this software?
2. Bai is considering filing a patent. He has written a paper related to the patent, and the journal he has selected wants him to make his data available as soon as the paper is published. What should he do?