Do you really know who owns your IP?
Intellectual Property (IP) is an intangible asset and, perhaps because it cannot be touched or seen, it has an elusive quality that seems to create confusion and can lead to damaging mistakes in business.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) recently found that over two thirds of business leaders either misunderstood (40%) or did not know (30%) the ownership position of copyright in the works that they had commissioned.
This is an alarming statistic, but IP can be tricky. It seems only fair to assume that a company that engages a subcontractor to, say, write some bespoke code for an online application, would own it outright but that is not the position under UK law.
This gets a bit technical now. Stay with us. In the absence of an express written assignment ownership of the copyright in the code would stay with your subcontractor. Granted, the courts will likely imply a licence in your favour but that is not the same thing and not owning IP that you have paid for is one hassle you can do without particularly when it is quite easy to get right from the outset by having the right contract in place.
If this just seems like a small headache with little impact on the business you can soon find yourself with a serious migraine. Perhaps your best customer wants reassurance that you own the IP that you are promising to assign or licence to them or, when it comes to selling your business, your buyer’s due diligence throws up some awkward questions about ownership.
Either way you are probably looking at a renegotiation of the price that they are willing to pay. And then, if you get it really wrong, there is the cost of litigation.
In the UK routine patent and trademark cases have increased in number by 10-20% in the last two years which is probably fuelled in part by the recession. And, much more dramatically, the number of trade secrets/breach of confidentiality cases has more than trebled as larger numbers of laid off and disillusioned employees have sought to exploit information owned by their former employers.
Get your IP Right with a Moore Law IP Audit
IP is a key business asset and the ability of a business to unlock the economic value of its IP cannot be fully realised unless it is properly understood and protected.
Moore Law has significant experience advising on commercial and Intellectual Property matters and has designed an IP Audit tool to identify the IP in a business and evaluate what needs to be done to protect it.
What is IP?
Intellectual Property is the umbrella term used to describe a range of legal rights that attach to certain kinds of information, know how and ideas and in particular to the way that they are expressed and used. IP is increasingly recognised as being of critical importance to the success of a business and all clients need to be aware of the different IP rights to ensure that they protect what they create, hold what they need to maximise their competitive position and take care to avoid infringing third party rights. Moore Law has produced a simple summary of the key IP rights which will help shed light on the types of rights we are talking about and they way in which they can best be protected.