The Protection of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property arising from R&D is an important part of a company's knowledge asset and needs protection.

The underlying objective of R&D work is to generate novel information, or intellectual property as it is known in legal terms, in the form of new products, processes, systems and services. The company does not generate intellectual property in industry for the primary purpose of furthering the science, as would be the case for a large part of academic research, but for commercial exploitation. Intellectual property arising from industrial R&D is therefore designed to provide the company with a competitive advantage in the marketplace; it is an important part of its knowledge asset. This information will have taken a great deal of time and effort to accumulate and is often the main source for differentiation of one company from another in the same field. It is therefore extremely valuable and needs to be protected from falling into the hands of commercial competitors.

There are three main types of intellectual property that are relevant to the R&D Manager in a chemical or pharmaceutical company. These are inventions in the form of Patents, the company Trademarks, and Trade Secrets, often called Know-How.

Figure C8. A Company's Intellectual Assets

There are also internal records of work done and information gathered, which could be of great value to a competitor. These are shown schematically in Figure C8. There is also Copyright, but this is usually of little relevance in chemical R&D.

Most major chemical companies will employ their own intellectual property personnel. These are professionals, educated in patent law, who provide all the support necessary for R&D Managers and their staff. In smaller companies an outside patent agent or legal attorney will be used. Whichever is the case, it is essential that R&D Managers have a working knowledge of intellectual property law. Ensuring adequate protection ofinventions will be one of the main responsibilities in an R&D Manager's job description. The level of understanding of the law should be sufficient to provide guidance to the scientific staff and to be able to follow and question any advice given by the legal professionals. Intellectual property law varies slightly from one country to another and the fine details and implications of such differences are best left to the professionals. In this section only the main outlines and common features of the international law will be dealt with, but this will form a good enough base on which a new Manager can build for the future [C-26]. The UK patent law will be used as a model with differences in other countries pointed out as appropriate [C-27].

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