All Businesses have Intellectual Property: Part 1

An all too common statement made by businesses is that they 'do not possess any intellectual property'. However, even the smallest of businesses usually owns at least four of the six key intellectual property rights ('IPRs'), namely copyright, trade marks, domain names and know-how - failure to identify your IPRs means you may be over-looking valuable company assets.

In a three part series, Emma Lambert looks at the six IPRs: copyright; designs; trade marks; domain names; patents; and know-how. She will help you to identify which rights your business owns and suggests steps you can take to protect them - many of which are free and easy to implement.

In this first article, Emma considers copyright and designs.


What is Copyright?

Copyright automatically exists for any material form that is original. This includes paintings, music, books, websites, business plans, marketing materials, business cards, client lists, page formats, databases, etc... It is highly likely that your business owns copyright in at least some of these forms.

Who owns Copyright?

Anyone who creates an original work will own the copyright in it with two exceptions:

Usually, if an employee creates a piece of work that contains copyright within the realms of their job description the employer will own the copyright. However, recent case law indicates that the courts are taking the circumstances of the creation of the copyright into consideration before deciding who owns it. If you are unsure who owns the copyright or in fact the IPRs generally in your business, check your employee contracts and job descriptions to ensure this is clearly set out. If you would like further clarification seek the advice of an IP specialist.

If you commission a third party to create a piece of work for you, you will not necessarily own the copyright in it - even if you pay the third party for that work. You are, however, likely to obtain a licence to use the work. If there is an intention that the work will be used AND exploited, then either a suitable licence or an assignment will be necessary and this should be clearly agreed between the creator and the commissioner. This is particularly pertinent for design-led material such as brochures and websites.

Who owns the Copyright in websites?

The rule for commissioned works also applies to your website. If you use a web designer to create a website, you do not necessarily own copyright in it - you may only have a licence to use them...

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