Grey 50

Intellectual Property


In global business terms, the competitive advantage of the UK economy lies in high value-added, knowledge intensive products and services. The intellectual property system forms the framework for the protection and development of essential assets both to the high-technology, scientific domain and within the creative industries.

One of the most important assets of a research driven university such as Royal Holloway is the intellectual property created by our staff and research students.  We aim to protect these assets for the benefit of staff and students, sponsors and collaborators and for the university as a whole. This guarantees the efficient provision of research deliverables to funders and assists in the commercial development of new ideas, products and services.

Why protect Intellectual Property?

As a member of staff or research student, why should you be interested in protecting intellectual property?

  1. It leads to a higher research profile for your group, with benefits for Research Council funding, and will be a factor in REF assessments.
  2. It gives greater visibility for your work with corresponding opportunities for consultancy.
  3. It improves contact with industrial partners, with increased access to practical applications for your work and to commercial funding.
  4. It provides opportunities to share in the profits from commercialisation from licensing of IP or through the formation of spin-out companies.
  5. It is a requirement of many public/charitable and commercial funders that intellectual property is adequately protected - this is a key element of our Intellectual Property policy.

Different types of Intellectual Property

A number of different types of intellectual property are protectable, and the relative importance of each will vary with Faculty.  Patents will be of particular importance for science and technology related research, whereas arts and social sciences are more often concerned with copyright. However, the expansion of computing research and database technology will give copyright and database rights increasing relevance to the sciences.

The main types of Intellectual Property rights are: Patents, Copyright, Performance rights, Database rights, Design rights and Trade marks

A good source of additional information of all aspects of intellectual property is the UK Intellectual Property Office (formerly the UK Patent Office). Detailed information on the development and use of  IP in the creative industries may be obtained from Ownit, the Creative London Intellectual Property Advisory Service.

If you would like to discuss Intellectual Property rights or matters relating to contracts, please contact the relevant Research Manager:

Below you can obtain further details on patents, copyright, performance and database rights.


The grant of a patent rewards the owner with the exclusive right to make, use, sell or import the patented process or to produce the patented product for a period of up to 20 years on payment of steadily increasing renewal fees. Patent rights therefore constitute valuable property and are the prime asset of many newly-formed, high-technology companies.  

Patent protection is governed by national law and by a series of international agreements that have created sorting houses for patent applications at the European (EPO) and international (PCT) levels. Here are the requirements for a patent within a grant.


Copyright protects expressions of ideas, not the ideas themselves. It is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).  In the UK a work must be definable under one of eight headings if it is to receive protection. Find out more about the eight headings and the legal guidance around copyright.

Peformance Rights

Rights in performances had always been considered inferior, less-creative rights than copyrights that were adequately covered by contract.   

Performers’ non-property rights were introduced with the CDPA (1988) and include:

  • The right to authorise the recording of a live performance
  • The right to prevent the broadcast of a live recording

Performers’ Property Rights were introduced in 1996 and include the right to:

  • Make copies of a qualifying performance
  • Issue copies of the recording to the public
  • Rent or lend copies
  • Include the performance on a website or in another on-demand transmission.

Performers’ Remuneration Rights

  • Equitable remuneration when a recording is played in public or broadcast – through a collecting society (PAMRA/AURA/PPL)
  • Equitable remuneration where rental rights in a sound recording or a film has previously been transferred to a producer.

Performers’ Moral Rights

Performers now have the moral rights of attribution and integrity in their performances.

Performers’ rights subsist for 50 years.

Database Rights

A database is:

  • A collection of works, data or other materials
  • Arranged in a systematic or methodical way
  • Individually accessible by electronic means  

It may vary in form from an anthology of poems to a multi-media work to an electronic database or even a website.  It does not include a computer program.

Non-original databases may now be protected by a separate right based on the protection of the investment in obtaining, verifying and presenting existing data by an EC-connected individual or company. Recent case law has confirmed that even large investment expended in generating data is not relevant to this property right. The right-holder will be the person or company responsible for the investment, not the author.

The right prevents the extraction and re-use of all or substantial parts of the database without authority. It arises without formality and subsists for 15 years, although on significant re-investment the term will re-start. 

Useful Links