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Intellectual property rights

A key question when engaging in cross-border research and innovation activities through an ERA-NET is how to deal with issues of intellectual property. This is particularly important when the joint calls cover both research and innovation, and involve SMEs as beneficiaries.  

As defined by the European Commission, "ERA-NET Cofund grants fund the implementation of a single joint call for proposals for trans-national research and/or innovation projects and additional joint activities related to the coordination of national/regional research and innovation programmes." Trans-national projects must involve at least two independent entities from two different EU Member States or associated countries, and entail financial support to third parties conducting the research or innovation action.

Project partners (i.e. third parties) undertaking research in the context of an ERA-NET funded call are advised to conclude a consortium agreement where they, inter alia, (i) define the objectives and scope of their collaboration and (ii) agree on the following intellectual property issues: ownership; optimum dissemination and use of research results; and protection, management and sharing (including use and access) of intellectual property rights.

A consortium agreement should, in detail, ordinarily cover the following issues:

Ownership of results and inventions; Protection of intellectual property; Access to background, Sharing of foreground within the consortium; Intellectual property use and transfer, including exploitation; Intellectual property licensing; Intellectual property provisions in case of changes in the partnership composition; Intellectual property provisions in relation to mobility of researchers; Confidentiality; Open access to publications and data, and dissemination; and take-up of research results would also be covered in the consortium agreement.

The intellectual property issues should be addressed with the aim of achieving the goals of the specific ERA-NET call, but also ensuring its contribution to building ERA: the reduction of fragmentation, and 'improved coordination of national and regional research activities and policies.'

Project participants will in setting up a common IPR framework need to be aware of the transnational dimension of knowledge transfer in an ERA-NET. The common IPR framework should therefore be established on the basis of European and international best practice.

In negotiating the consortium agreement, the project participants of selected proposals of the ERA-NET call should take into consideration any national mandatory laws which regulate ownership of results, including legal requirements and governmental rights relating to public funding. Due consideration should also be given to laws relating to employee inventions. Project participants should finally be aware of any requirements from the ERA NET funders concerning the funders' rights to non-commercial licensing and use of research results, and other obligations set by the funders towards the project participants.

Several ERA-NETs have dealt with recommendations to applicants on how to deal with intellectual property rights issues in different ways. These approaches are reviewed here, where you can also find more information about IPR and CA.

Evaluation of ERA-NET Cofund proposals now includes the criterion: "Effectiveness of the proposed measures to exploit and disseminate the project results and to communicate the project"

Thus, beneficiaries (i.e. the funders) of ERA-NET Cofund proposals are recommended to provide a clear statement on how IPR issues will be dealt with in their call for proposals.

More Information on IPR and CA is available here.

Last update: June 2014