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What is IP?

Intellectual Property (IP) allows people to own their creativity and innovations in the same way that they can own physical property.

The four main types of IP are:

  • Patents for inventions
    • New and improved products and processes that are capable of industrial application
  • Trade marks for brand identity
    • Of goods and services allowing distinctions to be made between different traders
  • Designs for product appearance
    • Of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of the lines, contours, colours, shape and texture materials of the product
  • Copyright for material
    • Literary and artistic material, music, films, sound recordings and broadcasts, including software and multimedia

Whilst these are the main familiar types, IP can be much broader than this, such as confidentiality (or trade secrets), performer’s rights etc.

It can be a complicated matter deciding how best to protect IP rights.

Registration processes, such as patenting are undertaken with the help and advice of a specialist lawyer. The Commercialisation team works with several firms of patent agents and other external professionals.

If you need advice or assistance on IP that you think may have commercial applicability, please contact us.

Intellectual Property Rights Policy

The University of Leeds Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy is a key document in the framework of policies on commercialisation activities.

It sets out the University’s policy regarding the ownership of IP, and the procedures in place for staff or students wishing to commercialise the results of research.


Applying for a patent is a lengthy and expensive legal process:

A patentable invention must be:

  1. Novel*
    • Not have been made public before the date of filing which includes speaking publicly about your invention, peer reviewed publication and media engagement
  1. Inventive
    • not be an obvious step to someone who is familiar with the area of technology with which the invention is concerned
  1. Have utility
    • be capable of industrial application
  1. Not fall under the exempted categories of invention, such as:
    • a method of medical diagnosis or treatment, a mathematical model or a business method

*One of the most important factors in deciding whether to file a patent application is to assess whether your technology is novel and inventive in light of what is already in the public domain (‘prior art’).

A good first step is to carry out a simple search of the scientific literature and a patent database, using keywords related to your technology. For more information, click here.

If your technology appears to be novel and inventive, we have expertise in our team that allows us to conduct a detailed prior art search (although any searches are unlikely to be fully conclusive).

During the patenting process, an Examiners in patent offices will perform their own searches to determine the potential patentability of your invention. Usually the patent examiners will start by searching on the names of the inventors, so any of your relevant publications are likely to be cited as ‘prior art’. It is therefore important that you flag to the Commercialisation team any of your own publications that might be of relevance, before any patent protection is sought.

You can disclose your invention fully to the Commercialisation team without breaking confidentiality. Solicitors and patent agents also have professional rules of conduct which mean that seeking advice from them will not constitute a disclosure.

On occasions where you need to speak to others outside the University (e.g. potential collaborators), they should first sign a confidentiality agreement approved by the University. This can be accessed via the the Contracts team.