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18 May 2020

How can libraries be an essential resource when exploiting Intellectual Property?

By Patrick Ibbotson, Head of Partnerships and Projects

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I was delighted to speak at the recent CILIP Copyright Conference, run in partnership with Naomi Korn Associates, and this blog is an adaptation of that speech. Naomi Korn Associates has been chairing and setting the programme for the CILIP Copyright Conference for the last 10 years – but this was the first one ever to be completely facilitated online!

Intellectual Property (IP) management is a business-critical activity. As generators of valuable new IP and users of third party rights, how organisations manage rights, use them and protect them will ultimately impact upon their ability to build and connect with new audiences, create exciting engagement programmes, support long-term growth and achieve strategic objectives.

Project planning is key to effectively managing IP. This means applying a culture in organisations whereby copyright and other forms of IP are discussed at project initiation. Excellence in rights management can support organisations in meeting their “Vision, Mission and Values”. This can be achieved by:

  • Building IP awareness into business planning, including related documentation, such as project initiation documents (PIDs), business cases, project management and contracts so that potential IP is identified as early as possible, managed and potentially exploited accordingly with the appropriate contracts.
  • Developing consistent procedures, policies and tools to manage IP that vests in content that is acquired, donated, deposited, commissioned, contracted and published or used.

So how does this relate to libraries?

Libraries will often form part of and/or are connected to other services in an organisation which might be involved in commercial activity, including IP exploitation. Libraries can occupy historic and beautiful grounds and therefore be attractive venue hire locations, they can work with outreach departments on book clubs and other activities, indeed library held material is often used to add value to services such as Learning and Marketing. Now more than ever it is important for organisations to think of ways it can use its assets to become self-sustainable. Innovation in times of crisis will help an organisation stand out in a crowd, be more attractive as a funding opportunity and stand a better chance of maximising potential sales.

An interesting example is the University of Manchester and it’s innovative work on the extraordinary material, Graphene, a material of incredible potential, 200x stronger than steel and the lightest, most conductive man-made material on earth. Revenue is achieved in part through partnerships which have included BP and Airbus and through external funding for Research and Development amongst other activities. The £61 million National Graphene Institute for example was paid for by Government (£38 million) and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (£23 million).

So, there is clearly a lot of potential here in terms of optimising this asset!

Libraries and research

Academic libraries, like the University of Manchester Library, will support their research teams and potential IP exploitation by:

  1. Providing an infrastructure for research, not just in terms of place but also negotiating and providing access to online research resources like JSTOR and Pro-Quest
  2. Producing supporting resources to help scientists and academics navigate IP, including contracts with publishers, accessing and finding free content
  3. Assisting research processes such as suggesting online references
  4. Supporting research in the use of the exceptions to copyright, like the quotation and text/data mining exceptions as well as providing a focal point for general IP and licensing advice

These activities involve managing IP and related licences. Effective processes will mean researchers are given the tools they need to abide by copyright law, and the university itself will be put in a position to protect the outputs. IP-related information that is effectively managed can enable greater access of unique collections and can optimise the use of newly commissioned content. Libraries are integral to this process.

In terms of promoting research output, the Library at the University of Manchester was important in optimising the success of the Graphene discovery. The library has recorded activities for posterity, including laboratory notebooks that preserve the legacy of key scientific and technical breakthroughs. Here we see how assets are transferred and made available by the library to the wider public. The library worked with academics and students to explore the potential uses of Graphene in conservation and disseminating Graphene research through Manchester eScholar that auto updates new publications on an hourly basis which, and I quote

“provides the international graphene community with instant access to the latest ground-breaking research in this field. It also ensures that all publications comply with copyright and publishers’ licensing agreements.[i]

Through the Library’s work, we see how opportunities can be explored, particularly in the digital arena, where effective rights management is critical to support growing global online communities.

The activities I have outlined regarding library support for research, are taking place right now in institutions like Oxford University to support potentially life altering activities to combat the current Coronavirus pandemic through the creation of, for example, the Coronavirus Knowledge Resource Centre which consolidates information of vital importance.

Oxford’s Evidence Service is now recognised as having ‘a lasting research value’ by the Oxford University Bodleian Library and worthy of permanent preservation in their web archive. The page has received 10 million views globally.

This blog post is an adaptation of Patrick Ibbotson’s talk ‘Lightning Talk –  Exploit your assets!‘ given at the CILIP Copyright Conference 2020.

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2020. Some Rights Reserved. The text is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)