Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind. It grants ownership of your inventions or creative works and offers benefit from the outcome of your research.
Intellectual property rights include patent, utility model, copyright, industrial design, trademark, and confidential know-how.
It is an exclusive right granted for an invention. The invention may be a product or process which offers a new way of doing something or presents a solution to a technical problem.
Generally, a patent can be granted for an invention in any field of technology.
Discoveries of materials already existing in nature, laws of nature, scientific theories or mathematical methods cannot be patented.
Non patentable inventions under Ghana's Patent Act, 2003 (Act 657) are as follows;
a) Discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
b) Schemes, rules or methods for doing business, performing purely mental acts or
c) Methods for treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy, as well
as diagnostic methods practiced on the human or animal body; this provision does
not apply to products for use in any of the treatment methods.
d) Inventions, the prevention within the country of the commercial exploitation of
which is necessary to protect public order or morality, which includes:
i) The protection of human, animal or plant life or health; or
ii) The avoidance of serious prejudice to the environment; if the exclusion is not
made because the exploitation is prohibited;
e) Plants and animals other than micro-organisms;
f) Biological processes for the protection of plants or animals other than non-biological
and micro-biological processes; and
g) Plant varieties.
The key conditions are novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.
The invention must depict some element of novelty and must not be anticipated by prior art.
Prior art refers to any or all existing public information or documents that can be referred to in patent application or an examination report. It includes technical publications, patent documents, scientific literature, journal articles, public disclosures (conference papers, presentations, marketing brochures, oral disclosures made by the inventor, etc.)
The invention must represent sufficient improvement in relation to existing state of the art. It should not be obvious to a person with ordinary skill in the technical field concerned.
The invention must be useful; or capable of being used for a business or industrial purpose.
A patent protects an invention twenty years.
The patent owner has the right to exclude others from using the patented invention during the period of protection. Thus, the patented invention cannot be commercially made, used, sold, or distributed without the consent of the patent owner.
The right to exclude applies only in countries in which the invention is protected.
- The first step is to disclose your invention to the Technology Development and Transfer Center (TDTC) by completing the Invention Disclosure Form. A Guideline on Invention Disclosure has been developed to aid the process.
- Thereafter, the University of Ghana's Intellectual Property Committee will conduct an extensive evaluation of the disclosure and make a recommendation.
- The University of Ghana will apply for protection of the invention where in its judgement; the invention is useful and has commercial potential.
We recommend that a patent application is made before the details of the invention are made public. Any information about the invention made public prior to the filing of an application will be regarded as prior art. This can jeopardise the grant of a patent for the invention because the invention will not satisfy the novelty condition.
This can affect patentability unless it is done under the terms of a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Patents are granted by a national patent office or by a regional office.
Here, the patent owner grants permission to an individual or organisation to make, use or sell the patented invention in accordance with agreed terms and conditions and receives royalty payments in return.
The patent owner is responsible for monitoring, identifying and taking actions against individuals or organisations who infringe his/her rights. Patent rights are usually enforced in a court of law on the initiative of the patent owner.
It is a form of intellectual property right granted for an invention.
- The requirements for obtaining a utility model are less stringent that for patents. An invention must be new and capable of being used by industry to qualify for protection with a utility model.
- A utility model is usually granted within four to six months of the filing date, compared to a patent which is usually granted after two years of filing the application.
- It is less expensive to obtain and maintain a utility model compared to a patent.
- The period of protection for a utility model is shorter (usually 7 - 10 years) than for patents.
In some countries, you can do so prior to the grant or refusal of the patent or utility model and upon payment of the prescribed fee.
It is an intellectual property right that protects literary and artistic works.
- Literary works such as textbooks, computer programmes, broadcasting scripts, plays, stories or poetic works, novels, databases;
- Artistic works like drawings, paintings, fashion design, wood design, sculpture, photographs;
- Musical works;
- Choreographic works;
- Audio visual works, etc.
Copyright protection extends to expressions. Procedures, concepts, ideas, methods or other things of a similar nature are not protected by copyright.
- The work must be an original creation;
- It must be fixed in a medium of expression;
Copyright provides exclusive rights to the author. Two main types of rights are recognised;
- Moral rights grant the author the right to claim authorship of a work as well as the right to prohibit the use of the work in a way that could affect his/her reputation.
- Economic rights allow the copyright owner to derive monetary returns from the use of his/her work by others. Economic rights include the right to authorise or prohibit a reproduction, translation, public performance of the work, distribution, broadcasting and communication of the copyrighted work.
The economic rights subsist for the life of the author and a minimum of fifty (50) years after the death of the author. Moral rights however exist in perpetuity.
Generally, the first owner of copyrights is the original creator or author of the work. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In some countries, the economic right to a copyright work vests in the person or organisation that employs the creator. However, in other countries, the economic rights are considered to be automatically transferred or assigned to the employer.
Per the laws of Ghana, the economic rights of a work vest in an employer or a person who commissions the work where the employed or commissioned author created the work in the course of employment or commission in the absence of any agreement to the contrary.
As a general rule, you need permission from the right holder to use a work protected with copyright. It may be possible to use works that are not in the public domain without permission of the right owner or the need to remunerate him/ her if such uses are covered by limitations and exceptions in national legislation. Examples of limitations and exceptions include the use of the work for educational activities, quotation of works and creation of accessible format for disabled persons.
These are works for which the term of copyright protection has elapsed. Such works can be used without the need to obtain permission or remunerate the right owner.
The right holder can authorise others to use or exploit his/ her work based on agreed terms in a licensing agreement.
These are a separate set or copyright type rights given to persons or bodies who help to make works available to the public. Beneficiaries of related rights are usually performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organisations.
Generally, works published online or on social media platforms are protected by copyright or related rights. Thus permission must be sought from the right owner before using the work. However works in the public domain published on the internet can be used freely.
The copyright owner is responsible for enforcing his / her right. Where a copyrighted work is used without the permission of the author, the copyright is said to be infringed. Such cases of infringement can be brought before the courts.
The Office of Research, Innovation and Development (ORID) will facilitate the registration process for copyrightable works developed at the University of Ghana. Authors / creators are required to disclose their works/creations and satisfy any other requirement for registration. Where the work is commercialised, the net royalties from commercialisation will be distributed in accordance with provisions in the University’s Intellectual Property Policy.