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Protecting your intellectual property

If you have an idea that you feel may have commercial potential then please contact the Intellectual Property Management (IPM) as soon as possible.

The costs of protecting intellectual property (IP) will usually be paid by the IPM if we are working with the inventor to commercialise the technology. The Technology Transfer Assessment Group (TTAG) are responsible for authorising intellectual property protection expenditure and the IPM will present each case to them for a decision. These costs will be recouped from gross revenues generated by the commercialisation activity.

What happens next

We will ask you to complete an invention disclosure form (Word document, 30KB) so that we can start to assess the commercial potential and protection necessary for your idea. We will also meet with you to discuss your ideas in more detail.

In order for IP to be of value it must not be publicly disclosed until the correct steps have been taken to ensure it is adequately protected.

Keeping lab books

Good laboratory record keeping has always been necessary in order to preserve intellectual property rights, such as patents and know-how.

Below are some recommendations as to how to use and maintain a good laboratory notebook. For further guidance on the University of Reading policy on laboratory notebooks, please see Quality Assurance for Research and your School's guidelines.

A well-kept notebook provides a reliable reference for writing up materials and methods and results for a study. A comprehensive notebook permits one to reproduce any part of a methodology completely and accurately.

Choosing a notebook

For most purposes a hardcover, bound notebook will be suitable. Pads of tear-out paper or spiral bound notebooks without pre-numbered pages are not acceptable. It must be impossible to tear out a page without leaving evidence. It is safest to select something that is clearly labelled as a laboratory notebook. If your notebook does not have pre-numbered pages, you should number the pages in sequence.

Preparing the notebook

  • Use ink for all entries, so that the marks will not be erasable.
  • Put your name, a telephone number and/or address, and project name or course number on the outside front cover of the record.
  • Put that same information on the first page inside, or on the inside front cover.
  • If your notebook does not have pre-numbered pages, you should number the pages in sequence.

Using the notebook

Above all, it is critical that you enter all procedures and data directly into your notebook in a timely manner, that is, while you are conducting the actual work.

Your entries must be sufficiently detailed so that you or someone else could conduct any procedure with only the notebook as a guide.

The most logical organisation of notebook entries is chronological. If a proper chronological record is kept and co-signed by a co-worker or supervisor, it is a legally valid record. Such a record may be necessary if you or the University are to keep your rights to your discoveries.

  • Make your entries clear and legible.
  • Date each entry.
  • Record everything you do in the lab, even if you are following a published procedure.
  • If you make a mistake, put a line through the mistake and write the new information next to it. Never erase or obliterate an entry.
  • Attach loose materials to the notebook itself and sign across a join, alternatively loose data could be kept in a separate folder or notebook, with location noted in the book.
  • Sign your notebook regularly (at the end of each experiment for example).
  • Have your notebook counter-signed on a regular basis by a colleague who understands your work but who is not a co-inventor.
  • For further information on keeping a laboratory notebook please see the University of Reading Quality Assurance for Research site.

Confidentiality and confidentiality agreements


In order for IP to be of value it must not be publicly disclosed until the correct steps have been taken to ensure that it is adequately protected. This is especially true for IP which is patentable.

If an idea has been published (conference, poster, paper, internet forum) or discussed with individuals not from the University of Reading then it is not patentable. During discussions with colleagues from within the University, individuals should be made aware that the discussions are confidential in nature, and the number to whom you disclose information should be limited.

However, this does not mean that publication is not possible. Once an idea has been evaluated for its potential commercial value, and the appropriate steps have been taken to protect the IP, then publication should be possible with guidance from the IPM.

If a disclosure is made under a valid confidentiality agreement it is not regarded as public disclosure and the information is therefore not regarded as being in the public domain.

Confidentiality agreements

Before disclosing confidential information to third parties a confidentiality agreement should be put in place. These confidentiality agreements are usually referred to as either a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) or a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). A confidentiality agreement is a legally binding document which, once signed by an organised signatory for all parties involved, restricts those parties from disclosing confidential information exchanged between them to third parties.

A confidentiality agreement stipulates the reason for the exchange of information (or indeed it may be a one-way agreement where only one party is disclosing confidential information), and restricts the use to which the confidential information can be put to use by the receiving party (usually for no other purpose that that defined in the agreement).

Using confidentiality agreements is especially important if IP, especially that which has yet to be protected, is to be discussed with a third party. If you are intending to discuss confidential information with a third party (especially a commercial venture) then you should contact the Research and Enterprise Contracts Team within Research and Enterprise who will be able to supply you with an appropriate agreement. It is important to remember that any agreements must be signed by an authorised signatory from the Contracts Team.