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Intellectual Property Rights as vital premise for VIB

Needless to say, Intellectual Property (IP) Rights constitute a meaningful share of today’s academic environment. Referring to unique and value-adding creations of the human mind, this right serves as the foundation of collaboration between VIB and industrial partners. To clarify the meaning and importance of IP rights we asked Jan Demolder, senior IP Manager at VIB, to elaborate.

For starters, what exactly are Intellectual Property (IP) Rights?
Simply put, IP refers to the results of ingenuity and creativity. First and foremost, an IP right is a legal right. IP is placed in an unfavorable light sometimes, but in fact IP rights are everywhere around us. Trademarks, designs, breeders’ rights, patents, copyrights and knowhow are all examples of IP Rights. Especially in our sector, patents are highly valued.

How are IP Rights respected?
Well, in almost all countries worldwide legal systems have evolved over the last 150 years. When a specific government decides to grant IP Rights, it provides the owner the right – for a limited period of time – to exclude others from commercially benefiting from it without the consent of the IP right holder.

What is the importance of IP Rights at VIB?
In short, it is key to attract investors and collaborators to our academicenvironment. Thanks to IP Rights, a research and collaboration agreement with industry can be set up. IP can also be licensed to obtain industrial income. And last but not least, IP Rights are crucial to attract the necessary funding for the start of a new company.
 

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Jan Demolder, senior IP Manager at VIB:

"Bluntly spoken, without intellectual property not a single industrial partner would take the risk to develop our inventions into valuable products."

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I’m guessing IP Rights is key when it comes to industrial collaborations?
Bluntly spoken, without IP not a single industrial partner would take the risk to develop our inventions into valuable products. Not only do they want to reap acceptable returns on investment but they also want to avoid competition, obviously. IP protection provides a temporary exclusivity to develop an invention and thus plays an important role in the innovation process.

Are the IP systems similar all over the world?
I wish it was that simple. In particular, the United States has diverged quite a bit from the rest of the world. For example, recent Supreme Court cases have made it impossible to patent nucleic acid sequences and certain products of nature such as isolated microorganisms, while this remains acceptable in other countries. Together with our US associates we are developing solutions to have a decent scope of protection.

What do you value about working at VIB?
First and foremost, the multidisciplinary aspect of VIB research is great. Managing IP in a basic research institute also brings a challenge as it is rarely the case that an invention is ripe enough for commercialization. I consider it as an important task of the tech transfer team to incubate an embryonic invention towards a commercially attractive asset.

What does the future hold?
Do you have another 30 minutes? (Smiles) There is a tendency that more data are requested from our scientists before we can start drafting a patent application. The patent system definitely raised the bar of what kind of data are needed to have a decent patent protection.

Questions or eager to find out more?
Please contact Jan Demolder at jan.demolder@vib.be or +32 9 244 66 11.