University academics have been advised by the Intellectual Property Office that they should be filing a patent application before publishing the findings in the public domain.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said universities need to consider patenting more of their work before publishing in order to ensure they don't miss out on "vital revenue". It issued the advice in the 'Intellectual asset management for universities guide' (PDF), according to a report on Out-Law.com on Friday.
"Many universities are now fully aware of how to commercialise the intellectual property (IP) arising from their research base. However, there is now a much broader appreciation that impact extends beyond the simple commercialisation of patents," the 48-page guide said.
It also said that universities needed to preserve a researcher's ability to publish but that "industrial contracts and IP protection" needed to be considered beforehand because of the potential economic impact.
"IP related activities may generate a small, but welcomed, proportion of a university's revenue, but can have a wider economic impact by enabling new knowledge to create new jobs and deliver innovation to the economy," the report said.
The guide also points out that by working with partners, universities do not need to own the IP in order to make to make commercially lucrative agreements.
"[Universities] need to have IP agreements in place that ensure that they secure the rights to continue to use existing IP and to exploit the IP that arises from research, whilst also balancing this with working collaboratively with other institutions, public or private," it said.
However, Louis Fullwood, IP law specialist at Pinsent Masons — the company behind the Out-Law blog — said that the advice was too conservative and did not address modern web concerns such as "digitising teaching or student materials, recording or streaming lectures online, and the use of content sourced from, or uploaded to sites such as Flickr, YouTube or blogs".
On 18 May, a government-commissioned report suggested that the UK needed to modernise its intellectual property laws in order to spur innovation and growth.