Intellectual Property Rights

Basic Intellectual Property Rights

There is a wide variety of intellectual property rights that may be relevant to the protection of your work and investment. These include copyright, database rights, trademarks, patents and design rights. In the context of IT law, copyright, trademarks and database rights are to the fore.

Copyright

This can exist at all levels in all sorts of creations. There is no need to register copyright – it comes into existence by virture of the act of creation. It can be in written words, software, photos, sound recordings, films, graphics and other forms. It is owned by the creator of the work unless that person is an employee of another person in which case it is the employer who is the owner.  One can transfer one’s copyright to someone else by a written transfer called an “assignment”.

Beware freelancers whom you engage to create something for you e.g. a website. If you don’t get an assignment, they will own the copyright even if you pay them for the service. This can leave the person who commissions the work open to exploitative demands.

Trademarks

These can be registered or unregistered.  If you use a brand name then after a certain amount of time, goodwill starts to attach to the name and this can be protected through the courts by means of an action for “passing off” if someone else uses your brand.

However, far better protection can be obtained by way of registration of the trademark at the UK Intellectual Property Office. Such registration gives you an effective monopoly of use. If one wishes for wider geographic protection, a Community Trademark can be applied for through OHIM in Alicante in Spain.

Database Rights

Defined in the legislation as “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means.”

This covers a wide variety of valuable business assets including customer lists and mailing lists and card indexes, whether held in paper form or electronically.

Further Information

For assessment of your situation, please call Simon Halberstam on 020 3206 2781 or via email to simon.halberstam@smab.co.uk for further information.

Click here to download our Intellectual Property Guidelines for Employers and Staff