Copyright ownership explained

“Copyright” is intellectual property that can be owned, bought and sold just like any other property. Exploiting it can be very lucrative so understanding the ownership of it is vital.

You do not need to register a copyright. It is an automatic right which in the UK is protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Under the Act the first owner of the copyright is presumed to be the author of the work, which can be literary, musical, dramatic or artistic. Software and databases are included under ‘literary’.

If the author created a work in the course of their employment, then their employer is usually the first owner of the copyright.

Copyright in literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works currently expires 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. Music was finally included by the EU in 2011.

Typical first copyright owners include:-

  • The creator of a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work;
  • The person or company (the producer) who paid for a sound recording;
  • The producer and principal director of a film.

If you are collaborating with a company or individual on a project it is important to have an agreement in place clearly stating who owns what.

Trade mark registrations, oppositions and renewals

  • advice on registering your company name or logo strengthening your brand
  • transfers of title
  • infringement and passing-off procedures
  • revocation actions and challenges to validity

Patents and protection of inventions

  • advice on registering your invention and protecting your know-how

Copyright and designs

  • advice in relation to the protection and licensing of copyright and designs
  • registration of design rights

Commercial agreements that will release the value of your IP

  • advising developers, licensors and licensees
  • joint ventures
  • research and development
  • data sharing

Confidence and trade secrets

  • drafting of non-disclosure agreements
  • taking injunctive action

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