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Horizon 2020 - a guide to intellectual property protection

Intellectual propertyHow do you protect intellectual property in Horizon 2020 projects?

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It is in the very nature of collaborative research and innovation projects that different partners with varying mindsets and interests come to sit at one table. Against this backdrop, properly managing and protecting your knowledge and know-how should be an integral part of the overall management of your project.

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Generally relevant IP questions arise throughout the lifecycle of Horizon 2020 projects: from the very first idea and conceptualisation of the project, throughout its execution, until the end and the potential exploitation and commercialization of the results.

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Before Project Start

Excellence” and “Impact” are key criteria under which your project will be evaluated by the European Commission. You should therefore demonstrate the high scientific and technological quality of your project (i.e. show how innovative it is), and outline the anticipated impact, particularly in terms of the potential for commercial and industrial exploitation of project results.

With regard to proving “excellence”, a good way of showing the innovative character of your project is to specify in the proposal the current state-of-the-art, with the purpose of further explaining how the expected outcomes of the project go beyond it. Performing bibliographic searches, including in scientific literature and in patent databases, are generally the best tools to demonstrate the current state-of-the-art.

In order to convince evaluators of the project’s impact, i.e. through the dissemination and exploitation of its results, it is essential for you to strategically consider and negotiate these central issues with your partners even at this early stage. How shall results be made accessible to a broader (scientific) public? What is the commercialization potential of your project’s results? Which exploitation channels seem the most appropriate, and what are thus the most suitable forms of IP protection?

These are only a few of the questions you are required to tackle already in your proposal by providing a “Draft Plan for the Dissemination and Exploitation of Project Results” including your strategy for IP management.

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Grant Preparation and Project Implementation

After the postive evaluation of the project, Horizon 2020 beneficiaries enter the grant preparation phase, which includes the signing of the two main agreements underpinning the contractual framework of EU-funded projects: the Grant Agreement (GA) and the Consortium Agreement (CA).

Once both agreements have been signed the course is set for you and your partners to actually implement your project. Properly handling IP during project implementation assumes particular importance as the management and ownership of your results as a basis for any future exploitation are key objectives of any Horizon 2020 project.

It is at this stage that questions related to ownership of results, the granting of access rights to background/results and the appropriate strategy to protect, disseminate and/or exploit project results will arise. The clearer your strategy has been formulated already in your proposal and consolidated in the plan for exploitation and dissemination of project results, the more you and your partners will now benefit from a smooth and successful project execution.

The overall purpose of the grant preparation stage is to refine the scientific and technical details of the project and to agree on them for the final signature of the GA. This will help you understand the different IP-related issues that are going to be established in the GA.

Arrangements to be considered and established in the CA relevant for IP management should cover the following aspects: 

  • Knowledge management 
  • Confidentiality obligations
  • Background
  • Ownership and transfer of ownership of results
  • Protection and exploitation of results
  • Dissemination 
  • Access rights 
  • Settlement of disputes

Project End

Even though IP issues related to the management of your project results occur already during project implementation and should be considered from the very beginning of your project planning, it is in the nature of many projects that the full range of expected results is available towards the end of your project. Therefore, questions concerning further dissemination and exploitation of your results become even more pivotal at this stage.

Proper exploitation of the results of your project will allow you to profit from marketing and commercialisation of the intellectual assets acquired during your project.

The successful implementation of exploitation measures must be based on a structured and targeted strategy already presented at the very beginning and further adjusted through the execution of your project. These may include measures: 

  • to use research results in further research activities of your organisation either internally and/or as background to be brought into a new collaborative research project,
  • to create new or contribute to on-going standardisation activities,
  • to develop and create new services and/or products.

Commercial exploitation can be implemented by:

  • Licensing 
  • Assignment 
  • Joint Venture
  • Spin-off
  • Franchising

With the end of your project and your actual research activities approaching, it is very likely that dissemination activities will gain further momentum. In order to create visibility for your achievements and to ensure knowledge spillover and access to a broader public, you may use a broad variety of different dissemination channels

  • Scientific and non-scientific publications 
  • Conferences 
  • Networking events and business fairs
  • Project websites 
  • Communication material (such as posters, leaflets)
  • Social Media
  • Open Access

A new feature in Horizon 2020 is a mandate for beneficiaries to publish scientific research articles under the open access models.

Credit: European IPR Helpdesk

> Guide - European IPR Helpdesk