Intellectual property (IP) refers to different types of intangible expressions (such as artistic and literary work, discoveries and inventions, words, symbols and designs) for which specific monopoly rights are recognised under specific laws.

Intellectual Property and Copyright

In general raw data on their own are considered facts and thus cannot be copyrighted. However, data that are gathered together in a unique and original way, such as databases, can be copyrighted or licensed. It is important to understand data licensing from the perspective of both the data user and data creator.

Sharing data that you have produced or collected yourself:

  • Data is not copyrightable. Particular expressions of data, such as a table in a book, can be copyrightable.

  • Promote sharing and unlimited use of your data by making it available under an appropriate license to ensure proper re-use and attribution. There are many licenses available that represent the range of rights for the creator and licensee of the data. Two options for providing open licenses for research data are:

    • Open Data Commons License: set of legal tools and licenses to help you publish, provide and use open data

    • Creative Commons License: provides a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law

Sharing data that you have collected from other sources: 

  • Licensed data can have restrictions in the way it can be used or shared downstream

  • When re-using existing data be sure to clarify ownership, obtain permissions if needed, and understand limits set by licenses

  • Be sure to provide appropriate attribution and citation

  • If licensing restricts sharing of the data, providing detailed information about where the data were obtained and how the data were analyzed can help with reproducibility

Additional Resources

  • Protect your invention

    • It is also important to understand and manage the legacy your research efforts. As you innovate, make sure that you take the time to have a conversation with the Office of Technology Development (OTD) to learn more about preserving your discoveries. 

    • If you have questions regarding how to protect your work as an inventor, in addition to local discussions with your laboratory and team regarding your efforts, make sure to consider filing a Report of Innovation (ROI) with Harvard OTD.
       

  • Open Data

    • Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike. — Open Data Handbook

    • To help understand what open data means, and to support your discussions with Harvard OTD, be sure to visit Open Data Commons to understand more about open data and the legal resource to support open data practices.
       

  • Open Source Licensing