BLOG: Designing A Flexible IP Policy

18 August 2014

Brian McNicoll Photo

This post is written by Brian McNicoll. Business Partnership Manager for Design in Action. Prior to joining DiA Brian setup and managed his own computer games business for over 8½ years. You can follow him on Twitter.

At the beginning of Design in Action over two years ago we had a relatively blank canvas to work with in terms of the IP (intellectual property) policy we were going to devise for our ideas generation workshops – Chiasma (that provide up to £20,000 of initial grant funding). With so many successful hack events and jams being operated around the world we decided that we wanted to take a slightly different approach in order to make the emerging ideas have unique potential.

With each Chiasma attracting people from design, business and academia as well as other from wildly different sectors it was clear that each category of participant would have their own opinions and requirements for the protection of the ideas that were generated.

With most hack events and jams utilising an open innovation policy it was clear from the outset that if we didn’t go down the fully open approach then we would have to put in place clear ground rules of how any generated IP would be handled.

It was therefore decided to take inspiration from the highly successful Dare to be Digital games competition (that is ran by one of our partner institutions Abertay University) – where Abertay hold the IP for the duration of their competition.

The reasoning for Abertay to take this approach is so that the ownership of the IP could end up compromising fantastic ideas if there were any disagreements within a team (that have perhaps just met) on the direction of the project. It could quickly become very difficult to keep a fledgling idea going and untangle who thought of what in a collaborative event. Temporarily holding the IP for the protection of all participants in the same manner was therefore the most sensible approach for Design in Action to take. The IP is protected until after the Chiasma has finished when the team and participants get together to identify the most suitable way to take the idea forward commercially.

Participants can if necessary, register and protect their own pre-existing ‘background’ IP if they wish to offer it up during the chiasma event allowing the event to make best use of existing services, software, or products in new areas or applications. This background IP would have to be eventually licensed by the team who wanted to use it within their new idea.

With up to £20,000 for successful ideas on offer Design in Action want to support commercially successful business opportunities, and therefore a completely ‘open source’ approach could reduce the ability to fully commercialise any of these ideas.

When Design in Action funds a team to develop their prototype we discuss commercial terms and the assignment of the IP, which goes to the lead entity of the team for a small revenue share in the product or equity share in the company. This helps to fund the sustainability of the Design in Action project and gives us the ability to continually support projects to deliver economic impact across Scotland by utilising design thinking as a strategy.

An exciting company that has came through the Chiasma process is who are now going from success to success – you can read more about how we have worked with them here.

Upcoming Chiasma Oct ’14 – Get Involved!

Design in Action has an upcoming Chiasma event that will be taking place between the 21st and 23rd of October at the astonishing UNESCO World Heritage site at New Lanark Mill, it will look at the sustainability of Scotland’s Rural Economies.

The ‘Sustaining Rural Scotland’ Chiasma is looking for inspiring people, businesses, entrepreneurs, design professionals, technologists, academics or community leaders with a lived interest and expertise to identify and create potential solutions to support climate action for rural Scotland.

Mel Woods, Co-Investigator for Design in Action, said:

More people now than ever before have direct experience of climate change and the pressures on the natural environment. Communities are calling for better protection against flooding, wise use of natural or local assets but sometimes find it difficult to engage because of other responsibilities, lack of time, trust or space to make a difference.


There are many opportunities for rural communities and those with local skills, knowledge and assets to join, as well as businesses of all sizes from sectors such as farming, agriculture, energy and transport. People and businesses are starting to produce and track their own data, sometimes they don’t know how it might help them, for example environmental data to measure their carbon footprint or using data driven services e.g. smart agriculture or monitoring product life cycle. ​


We want to address climate issues by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to create new ideas and collaborations with design at the centre. This is a chance to be inventive and use people centered design methods alongside a market focused approach to hone ideas that will thrive.


Academics with an interest in the environment, climate change, law, geography, computer science, architecture and design can bring the latest research and ideas from research and practice to life. There are significant opportunities to shape and advance ideas in partnership with business and communities for Scotland.


To apply for the Chiasma event please fill in the application form before 5pm on Monday 1st September 2014 or feel free to comment below if you have any questions or observations about our IP policy or our upcoming Chiasma.

You can find an FAQ page on our website regarding our IP and Funding policies and also a decision tree below that may help you when considering to apply for our Chiasma event.

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