he IPR-Helpdesk, a project of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise, offers help with intellectual property (IP) issues for Framework Programme research contractors. Advising them on research contracts, consortium agreements, and patent applications, it helps researchers and companies to protect and exploit the results of their work.
A new CD-ROM for the EU research community contains an offline copy of the entire IPR-Helpdesk website, as well as the multimedia esp@cenet tutorial in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Free copies of the CD may be requested from email@example.com
Online assistance Researchers can usually find a great deal of relevant information among the extensive resources available on the IPR-Helpdesk's website. Model contracts, consortium agreements, briefing papers and the latest RTD news are all available, while online tutorials clarify many aspects of IP issues. The esp@cenet database contains some 30 million patents, which can be scanned for potential overlap with planned research. There is also practical information on IP for each individual EU Member State.
Alex Weir, the IPR-Helpdesk's public relations manager, indicates the extent of the impact the website had already achieved. "The site had around 800,000 hits during December," he says. "People look mainly at the RTD information and briefing papers, but the tutorials for model contracts and consortium agreements are also proving very popular, and users have given us very positive feedback."
Seminars and training days
The Helpdesk also organises regular training days and seminars. Over 60 delegates from both SMEs and academic institutions attended the first seminar in Brussels at the end of November 2000. Forthcoming seminars, also in Brussels, are scheduled for 9 April and 21 May. Although access is free, strong demand means that places are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. In the case of the first seminar, there were 250 applications for 60 places, and demand is expected to rise. Slides of the full programme from the first seminar can be viewed on the website.
Training days are held in Luxembourg and are limited to ten people. The first was held on 22 January, with the next two planned for 19 March and 11 June. Again, these sessions are likely to be heavily oversubscribed. The training days are organised with a more personal, problem-solving approach than the seminars, offering assistance with very specific RTD and IP problems.
"The very brief yet clear overview of all the services on offer was extremely useful," says Lizzie Jesperson of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, who attended the first IPR-Helpdesk seminar in Brussels. "I had no idea that so much personal assistance was available from the IPR-Helpdesk."
Jesperson found out that draft agreements could be sent to the lawyers who gave the presentation for consultation, and plans to seek their advice on the drafting of a consortium agreement in the near future. "This is a very tedious procedure, but as experts in these matters I think they might really save us time," she says.