Inventors guide

Intellectual Property Protection

Why is Intellectual Property important to University Researchers?

Intellectual Property (IP) allows you to have ownership of the inventions you create. As with ownership of physical property, IP enables you to use and benefit from the outcomes of your research. Other parties cannot commercially exploit your IP without your permission.

Imperial College London's IP Policy will inform you of your rights regarding Intellectual Property you generate while employed by the College.

Read Imperial College London's IP Policy (new window)

IP at Imperial College London

At universities, Intellectual Property is most frequently generated as the outcome of research activities.

The most common types of IP rights that come out of research at Imperial are Patents, Copyright, Database Rights and Confidential Know-how. You can read some overview information on these below.

IP also covers designs, trademarks, performer's rights, geographical indications and some other rights. More than one form of IP can apply to a single creation - for example software can sometimes be protected both by patents and copyright.

IP Overview


Cover inventions which are novel, inventive and have a practical applications. Require an application and have a maximum duration of 20 years


Covers literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works and software. An automatic right that does not require an application, and has a maximum duration of 70 years from the death of the author (depending on jursidiction).

Confidential know-how

Covers unpublished confidential information, trade secrets, processes, methods and skills. Does not require an application, but does require careful management, and has an unlimited maximum duration

Database rights

Covers databases. Does not require an application, and has a maximum duration of 15 years