Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the mandate of the Technology Transfer and Innovation Support office?

We assist researchers and inventors in disclosing and protecting of their inventions and facilitate the possible commercialisation of their inventions or technologies. In effect we help researchers to transfer their research to new products and services in the economy.

2. How can Intellectual Property (IP) be defined?

Intellectual property (IP) rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds, giving the creator exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period.

IP can also be defined as a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of IP. The best-known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. 

3. At what stage should I approach the TTIS office?

Before the researcher discloses his/her invention that has possible commercial potential / value.

4. Why is it important to speak to the TTIS office before I publish? 

IP protection is only possible if the invention has not yet been publicly disclosed. Therefore, the publishing of your invention, will automatically destroy its novelty, and its IP can therefore not be protected.  However, once you have filed the patent application, you acquire a priority date and from that date you are free to publish normally.

5. What does publishing or disclosure include?

  • Any presentation given to people external to the NWU, e.g. seminars, conferences and workshops.
  • Non-confidential e-mail correspondence
  • Publications in journals, magazines, books and newspapers.
  • Theses and dissertations that are published online
  • Sharing with media or any other third party.

6. Who owns IP developed at the NWU?

IP created within the course and scope of employment or student registration, belongs to the NWU, in line with the IP Policy.  Although not the owner, the inventor/creator do get a share in the financial returns of commercialisation, in line with the IP policy.

7. How will I benefit from IP I have created?

Any revenue received from commercialisation is shared between the NWU and the inventors, according to the IP policy, usually in the form of royalties.

8. Is there a fee for the activities of the TTIS office?

The benefit of developing your inventions within the NWU, is that no fee is charged for the TTIS office’s support and services.  Professional commercialisation specialists will assist and support you.

9. What role do I play in commercialisation of IP developed by me?

The IP creator provides his/her technical expertise in developing the product, until ready for commercialisation, and also can assist with industry contacts.

10. What is the typical timeframe for commercialising IP and how does the process flow?

This process can take a long time:

  • First the invention is disclosed to the TTIS office.
  • Next the TTIS office evaluates the invention, by means of prior art searches, to determine its novelty and inventiveness.
  • The TTIS office also does a market search and report to determine the commercial potential of the invention.
  • If novel and inventive, the IP strategy should be determined, how to protect the IP.
  • IP is protected by either patenting or registering of trademarks. Patents are valid for 20 years from filing date, and trademarks are valid for 10 years from filing date.
  • Copyright is another form of IP protection, but does not need to be formally registered, and is automatic.
  • Commercialisation support is given to further commercialise the invention/technology.
  • Continuous development of invention by researcher, to ensure the invention is at the correct technology readiness level (TRL) for successful commercialisation.
  • Commercialisation can take the form of a possible licensing agreement / the registering of a spin-out company.
  • Revenues received in the form of royalties, received by NWU, and distributed to the University and the inventors according to the IP policy.

11. Am I free to use anything on the internet?

No, just because something is on the internet and in the ‘public domain’, does not mean that is free for all to use.  Most content on websites, is subject to copyright protection.

12. What is the difference between copyrights and trademarks?

Names, titles, and short phrases are not entitled to copyright protection.  Only works of a more substantial nature, such as a book, novel, poem, or song, is protected by copyright.

Business names and brand names for products and services can usually be protected by registering trademarks.

13. Do I have to register a copyright?

No. Copyright is an automatic right, that automatically comes into existence, when a piece of work is created.  There is thus no formal registration procedure to protect copyrights.

There are certain criteria that a piece of work needs to comply with before receiving copyright:

  • Must be original.
  • Exhibit a degree of labour, skill, and judgement.

14. Does it mean that something is not copyright protected, if no copyright notice shows?

No, although it is strongly recommended that a copyright notice is shown, it does not automatically mean that no copyright exists, because it is not shown.

15. Does TM mean that a trademark has been registered?

No.  ™ indicates that the mark is used as a trademark.  Only when a trademark is successfully registered, the ® sign is used.

16. Can software be patented?

Yes. There is no prohibition for patenting software products. If the software product complies to the patenting criteria, it can be patented.

17. Who owns the IP that comes from the researcher’s invention?

If the researcher created the invention during the course and scope of his employment at the NWU, any IP that flows from that invention, belongs to the employer, the NWU. 

There is an exception though, if a researcher creates an invention, in his spare time, outside of his work hours at the NWU, and the invention is not part of his scope of work at the NWU, then the IP flowing from the invention, can belong to the inventor, and not the employer.