Why is Intellectual Property Important?
Intellectual Property lies at the centre of all basic, strategic and
applied research conducted across Colleges and disciplines at the ANU. Put
simply, IP is the ANU’s core business: it’s what we produce.
When a third party provides funds for research, they are buying rights in
intellectual property. These rights may range from a simple copyright in
reports, such as in the case of an ARC Discovery grant; to a license to
manufacture technology based on the IP in the case of a commercial agreement;
to an outright assignment of IP rights in some consultancy arrangements.
The type of “sale” pursued and ultimately agreed to will be dependent on
the type of IP an ANU researcher creates, and the potential value of its
application - to the researcher, to the ANU, to potential partners, and to
Australian science and innovation.
To come to a suitable arrangement for all parties involved it’s important
to know what you as an ANU researcher want to get out of the arrangement.
First of all though you, and the staff supporting you, need an understanding
on what you and the ANU are putting in. Maintaining a good working knowledge
of your intellectual property will go a long way to helping ANU general staff
protect your IP and maximise the benefits from it.
Office of Commercialisation staff will be pleased to discuss any IP
questions you have and explore with you the best course for protection.
However, here is an easy reference guide to the kinds of Intellectual Property
you could be creating, and methods for its protection.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property represents, as the name suggests, works or
intellectual activities arising from the industrial, scientific, literary or
artistic fields. It can manifest in inventions, scientific discoveries,
industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, commercial names and
designations, trade secrets, research plans and priorities, research results,
statistical models and computer programs, market interest and project ideas,
and know-how such as concepts, tools, methodologies and techniques known or
Intellectual Property covers such a broad range of activities, it is most
often described in terms of the rights afforded to it, and method of
Certain types of IP require registration with a relevant Government agency,
for example patents, trademarks and designs. Other IP, such as copyright, do
not, even though the rights associated with it are strongly established by
legislation and legal precedent. Still other types of IP, for example trade
secrets and know-how, can be protected only under the Common Law.
Some of the most common rights follow:
||New or improved products or processes
||A patent is a temporary monopoly (generally 20 years) granted by the
government to the originator of an invention. Patents are the most common
form of registered IP protection for the ANU. In order for an invention to be
patentable it must meet three criteria:
Every patent is examined against these criteria before being granted and an
application that does not meet these criteria will not be granted as a
- inventiveness or non-obviousness; and
||The process for applying for patent protection is generally a stepwise
process involving increasing costs and levels of scrutiny. Refer to the FAQ
page for more information.
||Original material in literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works, and
in other works that include films, broadcasts, multimedia and computer
||Copyright protects the tangible expression of ideas but not the ideas
themselves. For example the actual text of a paper is protected from
duplication however the ideas conveyed by the text are not protected by
||There is no formal system of copyright protection and it comes into
existence as soon as the work is reduced to a material form. Identification
of copyright (and to sue for infringement in some countries) is done through
the use of the symbol © followed by the name of the person or organisation
that owns the copyright and the date of first publication.
||Words, symbols, pictures, sounds, smells or a combination of these
||Trademarks are signs or emblems that identify a service or good and its
source e.g. the Macdonalds’ golden arches or the Nike swoop. The mark has to
be unique and must enable the public to identify that product or service from
those of another trader.
||A trademark may be registered, in which case it is identified by the
symbol ®, or unregistered, in which case it is recognised by the symbol TM.
Registration of a trademark provides the applicant with exclusive use of that
mark, and the right to prevent others from using it, in relation to the goods
and services for which it is registered.
Registration of trademarks is relatively simple and inexpensive and there is
no maximum term for which protection can be obtained. A single application
may now be used to obtain protection in around 60 countries, excluding USA.
||Shape, conformation and pattern or ornamentation of a product
|| A design may be registered to protect the visual appearance of the
manufactured product. Registration affords the applicant the right to
exclusively use the design for a period of 16 years.
|| Protection is generally restricted to the country in which the
application was lodged; however an international convention allows for
submission of one application to afford protection in a number of European
||3-dimensional configuration of electronic circuits in integrated circuit
products or layout designs
||Based on copyright law principles, circuit layout protection gives
exclusive right to copy the layout in material form; make integrated circuits
from the layout; and commercially exploit in Australia.
|| Circuit Layout rights are automatically created and do not require
registration. The maximum term of protection for this form of rights is 20
years following the creation of an eligible layout.
||Plant Breeder’s Rights
||New plant varieties
||Plants Breeder’s Rights grant the inventor control over export, import
and selling of the plant material. It doesn’t extend to the use of the plant
variety for further development of plant breeding.
||PBRs are applied for through the Plant Breeder’s Rights Office, which
will assess whether the plant variety is distinct, uniform and stable in
assessing the application.
|| Know-how, and other confidential or proprietary information and
|| Secrecy does not prevent anyone else from independently developing and
exploiting your IP, however as a strategy may be appropriate if it is
difficult to reverse engineer your product.
||Trade Secrets can not be protected by registered means and rely on non-
disclosure for protection. A standard way of protecting trade secrets is
requiring employees and/or business partners sign a non-disclosure or
In addition to IP rights there are also moral rights recognised with
respect to a piece of work. Three types of moral rights are recognised as
- an author’s right to be identified as the author of a work - known as the
right of attribution of authorship;
- the right of an author to take action against false attribution - known
as the right not to have authorship of a work falsely attributed; and
- an author’s right to object to derogatory treatment of his or her work
that prejudicially affects his honour or reputation - known as the right of
integrity of authorship of a work.
The University will act to protect the moral rights of its staff and
students in all its endeavours.
Who Owns Intellectual Property at the ANU?
In a University environment, generating an income stream from Intellectual
Property is a background concern to ensuring IP is managed in a responsible
way. The Office of Commercialisation recognises that this responsible
management includes using IP in a way that:
- attracts and awards staff and students;
- provides an opportunity for engagement with industry and government;
- attracts sponsored research funding; and
- promotes economic and social development in the broader community.
The Office of Commercialisation staff will work with you to ensure the IP
you develop is managed in line with these principles. The ownership of IP at
the ANU helps facilitates this.
The ANU claims ownership of IP generated by its staff in the course of
their employment duties. Exceptions to and explanations of this are in the
IP Policy, which forms part of a staff member’s terms of employment.
Students – Students at the ANU own the IP generated
by them during their studies. Students should recognise however that
discoveries or inventions are rarely made in isolation and therefore it is
likely that the University will also have a claim on a particular invention
as a result of the ownership of IP generated by the student’s
supervisor or others involved in the generation of the IP. In some cases
where external funding is involved, it will also be necessary for Students to
assign their IP to the ANU for commercial/ confidential reasons. Note that
University policy does not allow for external organisations to require
alterations to a student’s thesis before submission for examination,
other than to request the maintenance of confidentiality of their own IP.
Visitors – Ownership of IP will depend on the
contract of engagement of the visitor and the resources going into the work.
In general however, detailed procedures concerning IP discovered by visitors
at the University or using University resources are to be as for staff,
subject to any agreement struck prior to the visit.
See the ANU
IP Policy for exceptions to and explanations of the above as
well as treatment of Background IP.