Common Ownership under Joint Research Agreements

Common Ownership under Joint Research Agreements: What it Means for Intellectual Property

Joint research agreements (JRAs) are becoming increasingly popular among businesses and organizations that want to collaborate on research and development projects. JRAs allow multiple parties to share the costs and risks of research, and leverage each other`s expertise and resources to achieve greater results. However, one issue that often arises with JRAs is common ownership, and the impact it can have on intellectual property (IP).

What is Common Ownership?

Common ownership refers to a situation where two or more parties share ownership of a single piece of intellectual property. In the context of JRAs, this typically occurs when multiple parties contribute to the development of an invention or discovery, or when the research produces a result that is jointly owned by the parties.

For example, imagine that two companies collaborate on a research project to develop a new drug. One company provides expertise in chemistry, while the other provides expertise in biology. The research produces a new compound that shows promise as a drug candidate. In this case, both companies may claim ownership of the compound, since each contributed to its development.

Why is Common Ownership Important?

Common ownership can have both positive and negative consequences for parties involved in JRAs. On the positive side, it can provide a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration, and can increase the likelihood of successful commercialization of the IP. Common ownership can also be a key factor in attracting funding and investment for research projects.

On the negative side, common ownership can create complications when it comes to licensing and commercializing the IP. For example, if both parties have equal ownership rights over the IP, they may disagree on how to license it or how to monetize it. This can lead to lengthy negotiations and potentially costly disputes.

How to Manage Common Ownership

To avoid potential disputes over common ownership, parties should take steps to manage their joint ownership rights from the outset. One common approach is to create a joint ownership agreement (JOA), which sets out the terms of ownership, licensing, and commercialization of the IP. The JOA should clearly delineate each party`s contribution to the research, and specify how ownership rights will be allocated.

Another important consideration is the role of the parties in ongoing development of the IP. Joint ownership can be difficult to manage if one party is more involved in further developing and commercializing the IP than the other. Parties should consider mechanisms for resolving disputes and identifying a lead party responsible for managing ongoing development and commercialization efforts.


Joint research agreements can be an effective way for businesses and organizations to leverage each other`s expertise and resources to achieve greater results. However, common ownership can create complications when it comes to IP licensing and commercialization. By creating a joint ownership agreement and clearly delineating each party`s contributions and responsibilities, parties can manage joint ownership and increase the likelihood of successful commercialization of their IP.

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