Will I be able to publish the results of my research and still protect the commercial value of my intellectual property?
Yes, but since IPR are usually affected by these activities, it is best to submit an IDF (discussed in next section) well before any public communication or disclosure of the invention. There are significant differences between Mauritius and other countries as to how early publication affects a potential patent. Generally, once publicly disclosed (published or presented in some form), an invention may have restricted or minimal potential for patent protection. Be sure to inform the TTO of any imminent or prior presentation, lecture, poster, abstract, website description, research proposal submission, dissertation/Masters/PhD thesis, publication, or other public presentation of the invention.
May I use material or intellectual property from others in my research?
Yes, but it is important to document carefully the date and conditions of use so that we can determine if this use may influence the commercialisation potential of your subsequent research results. If you wish to obtain materials from outside collaborators, an incoming Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) should be completed. The MTA is a contract for governing the incoming exchange of tangible research materials between researchers and other academic, government and commercial organisations. Contact the TTO to assist you in completing incoming MTAs.
Will I be able to share material, research tools or intellectual property with others to further their research?
Yes. However it is imperative to document items that are to be shared with others and the conditions of use. If you wish to send materials to an outside collaborator, an outgoing MTA should be completed for this purpose. MTAs offer important protections regarding such issues as ownership, the ability to publish rights to resulting inventions and research. It also may be necessary to have a CDA completed to protect your research results or IP. Contact the TTO to assist you in completing outgoing MTAs.
What rights does a research sponsor have to any discoveries associated with my research?
Research undertaken through a Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) should specify the IPR of the sponsor. For example, the MRC may retain ownership of the IP resulting from research that it sponsors; alternatively, the person or institution conducting the sponsored research may opt to retain ownership of IP. However, in cases where a third party also sponsors the research, the sponsor may have rights to obtain a licence to the IP arising from the research. The TTO can advise on SRAs and help with the IP issues in such agreements.
Often, alternate provisions are inserted within the sponsored research contracts to allow the sponsor a limited time to negotiate a licence for any patent or other IP rights developed as the result of the research. Even so, the sponsor generally will not have contractual rights to discoveries that are clearly outside the scope of the research (and which do not use funds from the research agreement). Therefore, it is important to define the scope of work within a research agreement.
Researchers may also enter into a Research Collaboration Agreement (RCA) which describes the terms under which sponsors provide research support for research projects and so performing a collaborative role in the research. The TTO can advise on SRAs and RCAs, with consideration given to protecting the right of researchers and inventors to freely conduct their research, and that they will be able to publish and/or present their research results.
What about consulting?
When researchers enter into consulting agreements (for work to be done without use of their institutions’ facilities), they are deemed to be acting outside of the scope of their employment. Researchers who enter into consulting agreements should familiarise themselves with their institutions’ policies relevant to consulting activities. The researcher is expected to ensure that the terms of the consulting arrangement are consistent with his/her institution’s policies, including those related to IP ownership, employment responsibilities and use of IP. The TTO is available to assist in providing informal advice on how your consulting agreement relates to the IP you have created.