Who owns the computer code you wrote?

Under UK copyright law, computer programmes are protected on the same basis as literary works, so whoever created the code owns the first copyright in it.

There is however one glaring exception – and that is if you created the code as part of your employment. In this case your employer may automatically own the copyright.

What if you are a freelance coder? Do you keep the copyright? Even if you have no explicit employment contract with the ‘client’, you may still be deemed to be an employee under employment law.

Factors in this decision include how long and how frequently you work for them, your payment terms and if you receive any holiday entitlement or allowances.

If you are planning to retain or share the copyright on computer software, as an employee, freelancer, contractor or joint venture partner, it is vital to have a legal agreement 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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