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The management of intellectual property by public research organisations

20 December 2009
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 21 December 2009

In order to promote the results of scientific research, the European Commission has adopted a Recommendation to improve intellectual property management and knowledge transfer by public research organisations (PROs). The Commission will thus contribute to the building of a knowledge society and establish a new milestone in the creation of the ‘fifth freedom’: the free circulation of knowledge.


Creating new products and services depends in particular on the dissemination and enhancement of publicly-funded research results.


Commission Recommendation of 10 April 2008 on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and Code of Practice for universities and other public research organisations [C(2008) 1329 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The aim of this Recommendation is to encourage Member States to define or adopt policies or guidelines for the management of intellectual property and for knowledge transfer. The Commission will thus contribute to promoting the enhancement and exploitation of publicly-funded scientific research results for the purposes of social and commercial innovation, with a view to attracting new talent and new ways of funding the European and worldwide private sector.

In order to create new openings, public research organisations (PROs) must manage their intellectual property (IP) well. This will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and new technologies to companies, in particular via the granting of licences and the creation of spin-off companies.

In order to improve intellectual property management by European PROs and universities, this Recommendation establishes a number of principles that Member States are invited to respect when preparing guidelines or provisions regarding knowledge transfer and IP management.

In accordance with these principles, Member States are encouraged to:

  • make knowledge transfer a priority for PROs;
  • invite PROs to prepare and implement measures regarding intellectual property management in line with the ‘Code of Practice’ set out in Annex I of this Recommendation;
  • encourage the development of capacities and skills in intellectual property, knowledge transfer and entrepreneurial culture within PROs;
  • enable the dissemination of publicly-funded research results, whilst ensuring that intellectual property is adequately protected;
  • cooperate with a view to improving the coherency of their respective schemes with regard to intellectual property, to facilitate collaborations and knowledge transfer on an international level in research and development;
  • use the principles set out in this Recommendation as a basis for the preparation or adaptation of guidelines and policies on intellectual property management, knowledge transfer or new funding schemes, or to conclude cooperation agreements with third countries in the field of research;
  • monitor the implementation of the Code of Practice (Annex I of the Recommendation);
  • guarantee equitable and fair treatment for international research projects in terms of intellectual property rights, in the mutual interest of all partners concerned;
  • designate a national contact responsible for the coordination of measures regarding knowledge transfer between public research organisations and the private sector;
  • examine and make use of the best practices set out in Annex II of this Recommendation, taking into account the national context;
  • inform the Commission by 15 July 2010 and every two years thereafter of measures adopted on the basis of this Recommendation, as well as their impact.

This Recommendation also includes, in Annex, a ‘Code of Practice’ for universities and other PROs. This Code proposes operational principles that PROs and universities are invited to use when defining or revising their institutional policies. The latter should in particular encourage the exploitation and dissemination of publicly-funded research results, whilst allowing intellectual property to be protected.


This Recommendation constitutes one of the five strategic initiatives planned by the Commission in 2008 following the Green Paper aimed at creating a genuine European Research Area.

This Recommendation also forms part of the re-launch of the Lisbon Strategy in 2005 and is based on the 2007 Communication concerning knowledge transfer.