A day at the (home) office with Kirsten… from Crowdience!

By Kirsten Bevelander, Scientific Researcher Public Health & Citizen Science

Today is an exciting day. We’re going to launch the first project on our new and improved scientific crowdsourcing platform. The last six months we worked really hard to ensure digital inclusion for low literacy people and people with an Intellectual Disability on our platform. Researchers from Radboudumc and funding from the SIDN Fund helped us reach this major milestone for our platform. We followed the ideas and suggestions of our co-designers with an Intellectual Disability and we even changed the name of the platform from ‘Crowdience’ to ‘Ik onderzoek mee’.

Our platform ‘Ik onderzoek mee’ is used to crowdsource knowledge from the average person and give them a voice in scientific research. On the platform they share ideas and experiences and respond to each other’s suggestions, which is then used in (follow-up) research.

Back to my day today. As soon as I wake up, I check my e-mail to find a message from our software developer. We have some final bugs in the platform that have to be solved before the first participants start this afternoon. I reply quickly and go downstairs to have breakfast. While having breakfast, I start to think about how this project revealed additional demand and market potential.

For the project that we are launching today, the national survey on how people perceive the corona crisis and are responding to it has been shortened and simplified together with people with Intellectual Disability and low literacy skills. A very user-friendly platform was needed to ensure that they too could participate in the study. That’s why they came to us. Although ‘Ik onderzoek mee’ was initially not intended to be a survey tool for people with special needs, it can be turned into one when needed. And this has a huge business potential for us. So, we decided to change and expand our initial business plan. Flexible and user-friendly functionalities make our platform unique and distinguish us from other commercial survey and crowdsourcing tools.

Later in the day, I share these thoughts during one of my morning meetings and explain the unique features that ‘Ik onderzoek mee’ has, as opposed to other crowdsourcing platforms. We start talking about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and if we should protect these features. We automatically get a copyright on our software, but we are not sure if the combination of elements, for scientific purposes, can or should be protected.  IPR are necessary if we want to prevent others from wrongly benefitting from our ideas. But no matter how hard I think about it, I just can´t find anything wrong with other people copying our features to create other websites, tools or applications to make them accessible for vulnerable people and involve them in research. So, for us it doesn´t feel necessary to register IPR. The more tools vulnerable people can use, the better! More importantly, the aim of the Crowdience Foundation is to further develop our platform together with the scientific community and citizens. So, other researchers and citizens can contribute to the development and built new platform functionalities which will be available for the benefit of all users. Therefore, registering IP feels needlessly complex and useless and does not fit the aims of our business.

In the afternoon, I hear that the bugs have been resolved just in time! I am relieved and happy that our platform is ready and can be used by clients, their coaches and caretakers! With a smile, I quickly dive into my last (online) meeting of the day…

Want to be updated about ‘Ik onderzoek mee’ and the Crowdience Foundation? Go to their website and subscribe to their channels!

Discuss IPR at Mercator Launch

A student has a brilliant idea: who is the owner?

The rules about ownership of ideas coming from university employees are clear. By law, by contract, and by collective labour agreement, all Intellectual Property (IP) generated by employees is owned by the university. But how does it work for students? Unfortunately, the rules were not so clear in the past. For students, IP can (depending on the situation and the subject) be owned by the student, the educational institute or, if applicable, an assigner like a company or institute that commissioned the work. Moreover, collaborating with peer students and/or companies will result in shared IP. Conclusion: for students it’s much more complicated.

To clarify the position of students with respect to IP, a new guideline has been adopted by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers[1].

So, let’s explain how the IP process for students works, starting with the basic principles:  

  1. IP is owned by the creator(s) and as such the student owns the idea he or she came up with.
  2. Ownership rights expire when the student signs a waiver.
  3. Universities and university medical centers must make prior arrangements with their students if they wish to deviate from the basic rule (1).
  4. IP developed during an internship is owned by the internship provider.
  5. Except for copyright, you don’t just ‘get’ patents, design patents, trademarks etc. You have to apply for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and pay certain fees to get and maintain them. Especially patents are costly.
  6. Having IPR doesn’t mean you can use it. Someone else’s IP might block your road to success. Read Valeria’s blog, to learn more about this.

Let’s dive into this case for example: imagine you’re a master student chemistry and you develop a new material during your thesis. Congratulations, you are the proud owner of this material!

Now imagine you developed this material as part of an educational project, together with 3 other students. In that case, all four students are 25% owner of the tool.

In addition to this, you developed the material as part of an educational project which was commissioned by a company. Even in this case, you are still the owner because you are the creator. However, this changes if you signed an agreement stating that the IP goes to the company. So, keep that in mind!

Finally, you could also have developed the material as part of an internship at a company or research lab. In this case, the material goes to the internship provider.

Now we move on to the advanced stuff. What happens if you develop a material during an internship which is part of a professor’s EU funded project? When you develop a material while conducting research for the University, the University may own that invention if you (1) were employed by the University, e.g. a paid internship or student secondment, or if you (2) used university research funds, resources or facilities. You will get all the credits as the inventor, but you will not be the owner. Luckily, as an ‘inventor’ you will be treated as an employee and share in any profits generated by the invention.

If you are in the position of inventor, here are some tips to help you:

  • Keep good records that document your creative progress;
  • Understand your IP rights and obligations;
  • Make arrangements in advance;
  • If you are not sure what rules apply, ask experts for help

We hope this article gives you a better understanding of Student IP.

PS: If you are a teacher or scientist reading this and would like to know more about IPR for academic staff, please contact Radboud Innovation.

Read more about intellectual property

[1] Addendum Richtsnoer intellectuele eigendomsrechten en studenten

Expert blog: ‘Patents in business, and why you should care’

By Valeria De Matteis, IP patent attorney at Synthon B.V.

In the competitive world of today the importance of Intellectual Property in your business should not be underestimated. A patent can help you protect your idea and raise the value of your (startup) company considerably. At the same time, a competitor’s patent can completely block your idea, forcing you to either find a different way to reach your goal, or abandon the idea completely.

That is why having a basic understanding of Intellectual Property (IP) is essential.

There are two questions you need to know the answer to before you start working on your idea and looking for investors or partners:

  1. Can I commercialise my idea/product/invention or is it blocked by a third party patent?
  2. Can I protect my idea/product/invention with a patent?

An invention that can be patented (point 2) will make your idea more attractive to investors, but patentability does not always mean that you can commercialize it. So, before investing time and money to try to get a patent, you should know if you will be able to commercialize your invention (point 1).

Point 1) To identify whether your invention can be commercialized you should be sure that nobody (a third party) has a granted patent that your product may infringe. An expert IP Searcher uses programs to identify patents in the same field of your invention and a patent attorney can evaluate them to understand if they may indeed block your invention.

Of course, this will take some time and money, something startups don’t often have in abundance, but my advice is always to discuss this point with a patent attorney and perhaps see if there are any cheaper ways for you to perform this search, perhaps by even doing part of it yourself.

Point 2) To establish whether your invention may be patented three criteria have to be fulfilled: the invention must be (1) Novel, must involve an (2) Inventive Step and must have an (3) Industrial Application.

An invention is Novel if it was not identically present in ‘Prior Art’ before filing of the patent application. The ‘Prior Art’ is any public disclosure such as manuals, articles, patents, patent applications, presentations (e.g. at a conference), abstracts, posters, a doctoral thesis or even a publication on the internet.

An invention involves an Inventive Step when it solves a problem and the solution is not obvious to a person skilled in the art (people that work in such a field), usually involves a surprising effect or brings an unexpected result; and usually there is an advantage over what is already known.

An invention has an Industrial Application when it can be produced or deployed.

Are the answers for your idea to both question 1 and 2 positive? Well, then you can get excited! But it is important to realize that the excitement over your idea should not lead to you talking openly about it with everybody. Why not? Because someone could then easily copy or publish your idea which could destroy your Novelty. So be careful!

Also good to know: a discussion with a patent attorney is always confidential but a discussion with potential investors or business partners should always be covered by a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) or a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Hence, it is advisable to have contact with a patent attorney during different stages of your idea development: at the initial evaluation, when making agreements, and during the actual development stage.

I hope the basic concepts about IP protection provided in this blogpost will help you to understand the language of a patent attorney and get closer to the world of intellectual property.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or to the people at Mercator Launch. Always happy to help!

Contact Mercator Launch

Top 3 go-to places for Intellectual Property questions!

Innovation, startups and Intellectual Property (IP) go side by side. But what is it? And where do you go if you have questions about it?

Intellectual property (IP) officially refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is basically something unique that you physically create. You might have come across it in practice when talking about patents, trademarks or copyrights. We can only imagine that you have a lot of questions about Intellectual Property. So, we made a top 3 of places you can go to if you have any questions about IP!

Are you a Radbodian?

If you are an employee or student at Radboud University or Radboudumc, the so-called ‘Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO) is the place to go! A KTO supports researchers in the complex process of valorisation, which is the process of creating value from knowledge by transforming it into products, services, processes and new business. Specialists working at the KTO provide tailor-made services to researchers with respect to IP scans, IP protection (e.g. filing patents), IP management, and technology licensing. People working at a KTO are patent attorneys, contract managers, business developers and innovation management experts. So, if you are wondering whether your idea can be protected and how, go to:

Not a Radbodian and want free advice?

These organisations offer free advice and (online) workshops on IP.

  • Business owners (SMEs, start-ups), scientists, teachers and students can consult with the Netherlands Patent Office free of charge about any patent-related queries or other ways to protect your IP.
  • SMEs and startups can also go to the European IP Helpdesk, a service funded by the European Commission which provides free-of-charge, first-line advice and information on IP. Whether you need personal support on a specific IP issue, want to be informed about the latest developments in the world of IP and Innovation in Europe, or if you are interested in a training session on IP – the European IP Helpdesk is the right partner to turn to. Tip: the library contains a lot of factsheets, checklists and legal templates!
  • Startup Nijmegen provides free consultation with a patent attorney to startups located in Nijmegen.

Do you have an urgent, detailed or strategic IP question?

If your question is urgent or detailed, or if you’re looking for a strategic partner to support you all the way, you can always go to professional IP consultants. If you know what you are looking for, find a specialist that knows everything about your field of expertise. If you are not sure, you can go full-service firm like AOMB, Arnold & Sietsma or VO. Usually, the first meeting(s) are free of charge.

We hope this will guide you in the right direction, but if you are still not sure where to go, you can always contact (Brechtje at) Mercator Launch!

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