Protecting Bright Ideas

Many of us have probably come up with a new idea that has helped improve the way we work or deliver care to our patients. But as well as making a difference, did you know your brainwave could be ‘Intellectual Property’ which means it can be protected, distributed further afield or even become a money spinner?

Intellectual Property (IP) is the name given to new ideas or concepts with practical application that the law recognises has value by providing legal protection. IP includes patents, trade marks (both registered and unregistered) copyright, design rights (both registered and unregistered) and confidential know-how or information.

For example, if you write a training course or a new way of recording patient outcomes, these should be protected under copyright before being shared with other organisations. Or if you design a new piece of equipment or an improvement to an old one, that design should be protected and perhaps patented, to make sure no one else can use the idea without your permission.

By law, any IP you develop during the course of your employment belongs to your employer. NHS Forth Valley’s IP policy ensures that you will be identified as the author/inventor and also that you should get a share of any income that might be generated. We have an agreement with Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL), who can provide intellectual property advice and protection, project management, idea incubation, funding advice, development and commercialisation, and post-commercialisation monitoring. Have a look at to see some of the innovations developed by NHS Scotland staff and commercialised by SHIL.

Obviously not all IP will be suitable for marketing, but in tough financial times we don’t want to miss any opportunity to add to our income.

If you’ve got a bright idea, the important thing is to make sure it is identified as yours as soon as possible. Contact the NHS Forth Valley Research and Development office (  or 01324 614690) and they can advise you on the next steps.