It is vital that funders ensure the money they spend, goes to fund projects that have the best chance of realising impact. It is with this in mind that they ask whether you have “freedom to operate”. In the simplest terms, this means, do you have the right to go forward with your research outside the lab, or will you be infringing another party’s intellectual property (IP) rights?
IP rights will exist in your materials but may also exist in the methods and processes that you use. To determine what rights exist in your background technology, you should firstly consider the origin of the materials you use and check that they are being used for the purpose they were acquired for. Secondly, a freedom to operate search should be carried out to ensure that there are no patents in force that you would infringe. Free user friendly search tools built on patent databases include the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO’s) Patentscope and the European Patent Office (EPO’s) Espacenet, and Google Patents isn’t half bad either.
For more information or assistance, please contact the college Technology Transfer Officer, Claire Fenlon (ex 46804).