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Research Data Management: Intellectual Property

Bringing together University resources and services to facilitate researchers in the production of high quality data.

At a Glance

In the broadest sense, intellectual property (IP) refers to different types of intangible expressions (such as artistic and literary work, discoveries and inventions, words, symbols and designs) for which specific monopoly rights are recognised under specific laws.

In the context of academic institutions, the most common types of intellectual property rights (IPR) are:

  • Patents
  • Copyright
  • Trade secrets

HELP@UCD: Relevant Policies

Help@UCD: NovaUCD

The Technology Transfer team in UCD Innovation (NovaUCD) can provide advice on protecting your Intellectual Property (IP).

For more information on this area, licensing and also commercialisation aspects, contact Caroline Gill, Innovation Education Manager; email: 

Help@UCD: UCD IP Policy, Forms and Template Agreements

Help@UCD: UCD Legal

European Patent Office (EPO) - Online Training

Intellectual Property

In the broadest sense, intellectual property (IP) refers to different types of intangible expressions (such as artistic and literary work, discoveries and inventions, words, symbols and designs) for which specific monopoly rights are recognised under specific laws.

Under such intellectual property laws, the owners of such intangible expressions are granted some exclusive rights that typically exclude others from using them without the owner’s consent. These rights can be used to protect the owner’s commercial interest.

In the case of an academic institution, which cannot directly commercialise its technologies, the intellectual property rights (IPR) can be licensed to industrial partners to enable their commercial deployment and exploitation of the university technology.

The main types of IPR include patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial design rights and trade secrets. In the context of academic institutions, the most common types of IPR are patents, copyright and, sometimes trade secrets.


A patent is a powerful form of intellectual property that has very strong legal rights attached to it.

At its core, it is a negative legal right granted by individual states to an inventor, who in return, must disclose to the world how his invention works (hence it is not in conflict with the publication needs of academic institutions).

Specifically, it prevents 3rd parties from commercially using the invention as claimed in the patent, unless the patent owner explicitly allows it. It is important to remember that having a granted patent does not automatically allows one to practice his/her invention freely; this will depend on the breadth and strength of the patent at hand, and whether the technology/product based on the invention actually falls under the scope of 3rd party patents or not.

If it does, the explicit consent of the party owning such relevant patent will be needed. It is also very important to know that the rights attached to a patent are not automatically enforced, but rather, the owner of the patent has the responsibility, if it wishes, to enforce the rights attached to it by suing those parties it believes infringe on the patent.

Patents are useful to protect not only one’s past investment in the research that led to the invention but also future investments while developing and validating the invention it towards commercialisation. Alternatively, patents can be licensed to 3rd parties to allow them to develop the technology around the invention to the commercial stage.

Universities typically engage only in licensing patents and other forms of intellectual property to external companies. In some cases, a start-up company may be created specifically to exploit a piece of university intellectual property; the university will then license its patent/intellectual property to that start-up company.


Copyright is the legal term which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work. Copyright protection extends to the following works:

  • Sound recordings, films
  • Broadcasts, cable programmes
  • The typographical arrangement of published editions
  • Computer programmes

The owner of copyright is the author, meaning the person who creates the work. However, as copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else, for example, to a publisher. Copyright is a property right and the owner of the work can control the use of the work, subject to certain exceptions. The owner has the exclusive right to prohibit or authorise others to undertake the following:

  • Copy the work
  • Perform the work
  • Make the work available to the public through broadcasting or recordings
  • Make an adaptation of the work

Copyright takes effect as soon as the work is put on paper, film, or other fixed medium such as CD-ROM, DVD, Internet, etc. No protection is provided for ideas while the ideas are in a person’s mind; copyright law protects the form of expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a specific set of information (data, design, process, formula) which is not generally known and by which its owner or licensee can derive economic advantage over its competitors.

It is important to make reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy, as a trade secret derives most of its value from this.

One can easily see that this can be in conflict with the practice of dissemination via publications and other forms of disclosure of academic institutions.

Yet, while certainly not widespread at University College Dublin, in some cases, depending on the nature of the information, the source of funding of the project, the university-industry collaboration contract that may govern the management of the results, and the commercialisation strategy adopted by the team involved, trade secrets can be a valuable intellectual property protection tool to enable commercial traction.

Help@UCD: UCD Intellectual Property Policy

According to UCD's Intellectual Property Policy UCD owns all copyright in works created by the UCD Community. However, in accordance with long-standing academic tradition, UCD does not assert ownership of copyright in pedagogical works, scholarly publications, books or artistic works, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary.

This exception to UCD ownership of IP does not extend to copyright in software, apps, data, databases, database rights or to any online teaching materials (including courses captured in video, or in other digital forms) existing or new and UCD shall own all copyright in such works and publications created by the UCD Community in the course of their activities at UCD.

It is UCD’s policy to encourage the UCD Community to place the results of their research in the public domain either through publication in journals or presentation at conferences. It also encourages Open Access and Open Data where appropriate. However [...] where IP that has potential commercial applications is identified, then members of the UCD Community must ensure that the IP remains confidential and is not published for a limited period to enable NovaUCD to obtain appropriate protection so that it can be commercialised later.