Do companies own the copyright in the things that their workers create?

Do companies own the copyright in the things that their workers create?

When it comes to written, theatrical, musical or artistic work, it is the author or creator of the work who is the owner of any copyright in it.

The only exception to this is where the work is made by an employee in the course of their employment as in these cases it is the employer who owns the copyright in the works.

However, if a company hires self-employed workers to create or develop works then these are considered to be commissioned works and it is the worker who will own any copyright in them.

Disputes can arise when there is no formal agreement clarifying whether the worker is an employee or working for the company on a self-employed basis.

A company merely calling a worker an ‘employee’ or a worker referring to themselves as ‘self-employed’ is not sufficient. The facts of the case will need to support these assertions including who calculates and pays the worker’s tax and whether the worker receives any holiday pay.

So if a company wants to own the copyright in all the works that are created in their workplace, it is important that a clear agreement is put in place.

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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