BIOCORE was a consortium of 23 partners and lasted for 4 years between March 2010 and February 2014. The project was funded under FP7 and focused on intensive collaborative research on lignocellulosic biorefineries producing chemicals and polymers.
At the exploitation stage one of the BIOCORE partners contacted the European IPR Helpdesk’s Helpline asking for support with regard to a disagreement between two of the project partners. One of them had filed two patent applications, related to an invention which this partner had developed under the project and which was therefore considered project foreground.
These patent applications were withdrawn at the request of one of the other partners. This partner argued that the invention had been developed by using its pre-existing, patented process without permission and that by filing a patent application for the new process, confidential information would be disclosed.
This conflict regarding the ownership of the foreground blocked the partners and put the project at risk. The European IPR Helpdesk was approached for advice and guidance on the rights and obligations of the parties and especially the intellectual property rules on ownership of background and foreground in FP7 projects.
The IPR Helpdesk reminded the project partners that the implementation of a research project usually requires the use of pre-existing knowledge and/or intellectual property, held by the partners and resulting from work carried out prior to the project (background). In the BIOCORE Consortium Agreement the project background was defined by the partners through the use of positive and negative lists of assets, and the pre-existing patented invention owned by the partner who opposed the patent applications was indeed available for access rights in case it was needed to use the foreground generated.
A few months later the BIOCORE partners again contacted the Helpline, stating:
“Following the IPR Helpdesk’s support, the opposed partner has been contacted for discussions. The situation has been clarified and a new European patent application has been filed. This experience will also help us to better prepare the next projects and Consortium Agreements.”
The project partners are now awaiting the results of the search report of the European Patent Office. Depending on the results, the opposed partner will be contacted to request access rights to its background and to take further steps related to the commercial exploitation of the project foreground.