Business and innovation

Physics and world intellectual property day

26 April is World Intellectual Property day. This annual event, setup in 2000 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), aims to “join with others around the globe to consider how IP contributes to the flourishing of music and the arts and to driving the technological innovation that helps shape our world”.


What is intellectual property?

According to WIPO, intellectual property: “refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce”.

Intellectual property rights are a legal form of protection stopping others from making, using, importing or selling your creations.

These rights can be divided into four categories:

  • copyright
  • patents
  • trademarks
  • design.

Why do physicists care about intellectual property?

A lot of UK commercial success is built on technical innovation and products invented by physicists working in traditional areas such as electronics, engineering and computing.

Physicists, and companies that use physics, need to think about whether protecting the efforts they’ve put into research and development is a route they wish to pursue.

“Physics is about studying how the universe works and, across all disciplines, this will necessarily involve solving problems, overcoming technical hurdles, gaining useful insight into a process or object. All of these are where intellectual property in the form of inventions and patents can come into play” says Richard Bray, partner at Appleyard Lees, European Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys.

“For some companies, a technical innovation may be the most important asset of the business. It could be the only asset. A patent could show off the invention, in a marketing sense, or help in a tender process, or help to secure investment or commercial interest in the company. Maybe the patent is part of a grant process.

“For research institutions, patents can be key in attracting investment. Patents are often used as a marker or index of the innovation performance of a university."

Are you a physicist or a physics-based business?

If so, Richard suggests spending some time considering whether you need, or want, to protect your innovations and insights. Even if the answer is ‘no’, he recommends not leaving intellectual property to become an afterthought.

As an important consideration for any physics-based business, intellectual property needs to be part of your overall strategy. Having all the relevant information will help you and your company make a decision on whether a patent route is right for you.

Further reading

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