ICARS Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets and Open Access to Research Products

Approved by the Board of Directors on 12th December 2022. The latest review was done in March 2024. 

A. Introduction

Intellectual assets (IA) will result from all ICARS-funded (or co-funded) projects/ activities implemented in collaboration with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and/or international partners as research outputs or global knowledge products. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that ICARS’ IA management approach, including with respect to intellectual property rights (IPR), is in line with ICARS vision and mission and transparent to partners.

ICARS’ IA policy, management and practice are intended to be supportive of and consistent with international agreements promoting the respect for IA and use, fundamental human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and national laws and regulations governing IA in LMICs where ICARS-funded projects are implemented.

All terms in italic are defined in section F.

Policy statement

ICARS supports Open Access to information that will support antimicrobial resistance (AMR) solutions and does not intend to own/co-own IA or data generated in LMICs through ICARS (co)-funded projects.

B. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to maximize impact and global access to ICARS (co-) funded projects and activities, while making sure that knowledge and information is shared in a way that maximizes their benefit to LMICs, and respects local ownership in project development and implementation (including with respect to data).

C. Scope

The policy covers all IA generated as a result of an ICARS-funded (or co-funded) project and activity.

D. IA Management Principles

  1. Transparency

ICARS will initiate open discussion amongst partners to understand the policies and interests of each partner regarding the handling of IA resulting from project work, and to come to a common understanding of how we can best share innovation and knowledge freely with the global community, while respecting local ownership and individual stakeholder interests.

ICARS-funded (or co-funded) project outputs have a range of contributors, such as responsible ministries, research organisations/academia, private sector partners, community organisations, or multilateral partners. Different stakeholders have their own IA requirements, and so ICARS will discuss Open Access, ownership and sharing of results, including data, early in partnerships with transparency to develop a pragmatic common understanding, balancing the interests of all stakeholders.

  1. Open Access to final research outputs and knowledge products

ICARS will employ every effort to make all final research outputs and knowledge products Open Access in a timely manner (generally by submission for publication within 6 months following the termination of the project) – regardless of whether the project is considered successful or not, subject always to the legal rights and legitimate interests of partners, stakeholders and third parties, including IPR, confidentiality obligations and sensitivities (in particular politically sensitive information), privacy and taking into consideration research ethics.

Such (joint) products and outputs will respect and acknowledge all contributions of partners and funding sources.

With respect to projects implemented in partnership with LMICs, (open) access to, and equitable sharing of (and use of) underlying research data generated by the LMIC partners, will be discussed at the country level and only provided by the respective LMIC partners when appropriate, under consideration of local ownership, confidentiality obligations, sensitivities, privacy and taking into consideration research ethics.

  1. Protection and management of IPR

As a general rule, ICARS does not seek to own or co-own IA arising from projects implemented with LMIC partners.

When supporting public engagement activities (rather than in country research), e.g., the development of training material, and depending on the scale of ICARS’ engagement, IA generated will generally be owned by the partner, while ICARS is granted a comprehensive license. The main aim is to ensure Open Access to outputs and that ICARS’ public engagement aims are prioritized above any commercial interests.

ICARS is committed to the prudent and strategic use of IPR for the benefit of LMICs and will carefully consider, together with its partners, whether to register/apply for (or allow partners or third parties to register/apply for) patents or other protection over the assets resulting from an ICARS co-funded activity. As a general principle, IPR shall not be claimed unless they are necessary to:

  • Ensure continued availability of solutions to country partners in a sustainable manner and prevent the misappropriation of its outputs by third parties for profit making;
  • Ensure the delivery of improved solutions and sharing of good practices in LMICs; and/ or
  • Negotiate access to other proprietary rights required for solution-development.

ICARS will manage its IPR with integrity, transparency, fairness, equity, responsibility, and accountability, while respecting and not infringing the rights of partners or third parties.

  1. Fostering partnerships that benefit LMIC

Partnership (principle 3) and country ownership (principle 1) are two of ICARS’ five core principles. ICARS acknowledges that partnerships, including private sector partners, are critical for example to ensure access to the best knowledge and innovation, harnessing efficiencies in product development, or achieving maximum impact through effective delivery and deployment. Partners may have different interests or incentives for participation, which should be stated explicitly, made transparent and managed and monitored as appropriate.

To ensure the effective implementation of sustainable solutions in LMICs, ICARS will establish public and private partnerships in the development of solutions, including but not limited to governments, institutions, biotech companies, farmer unions, etc. All such partnerships will be governed by appropriate partnership agreements, including provisions on IPR arising out of such partnerships.

ICARS will allow for responsible commercialization/ restricted use of/ access to research outputs and other IA only where appropriate for sustainability of AMR solutions, while supporting widespread affordable access to LMICs.

E. Policy Review

The Board of Directors shall authorise and oversee a periodic review of the administration of this policy at least every two years. The review may be written or oral. The review shall consider the level of compliance with the policy, the continuing suitability of the policy, and whether the policy should be modified/ improved.

F. Key Definitions

For the purpose of this policy:

‘Data’ means the digital or otherwise recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, including data sets used to support publications and/or that have been prepared and validated but that do not support publications. This does not include laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as laboratory specimens.[1]

‘Intellectual Assets’ or ‘IA’ means any results or products of research and development activities of any nature whatsoever (including, but not limited to, Data, knowledge, publications and other information products, databases, improved germplasm, technologies, inventions, know‐how, processes and software), whether they are protected by IPR or not.[2]

‘Intellectual Property Rights’ or ‘IPR’ means rights (or applications) claiming Intellectual Assets, whether registerable or not, in any jurisdiction, including but not limited to, copyright and related rights, database rights, patents, industrial design rights, plant variety rights, trademarks and service marks, geographical indications, and trade secrets.[3]

‘Open Access’ means the immediate, irrevocable, unrestricted and free online access by any user worldwide to information products (including IA), and unrestricted re-use of content (which could be restricted to non-commercial use and/or granted subject to appropriate licenses), subject to proper attribution.[4]

[1] Inspired by CGIAR’s Open Access and Data Management Policy 2013.

[2] Inspired by the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets 2012.

[3] Inspired by CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets 2012.

[4] Inspired by CGIAR’s Open Access and Data Management Policy 2013.