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How you protect your intellectual property with trade marks and copyright

9th November 2017

Fiona Moss updates a previous article on trade marks and intellectual property rights, focusing on points how to protect intellectual property both published in Essence Magazines November issue.

  • The law on copyright is set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
  • Copyright protects the expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves, e.g. the idea must be expressed in a permanent form. It is intended to give the copyright owner the right to exclusively control and exploit the works (e.g. copy, issue copies, lend, rent, show, play and adapt them).
  • Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, films, photographs, sound recordings and broadcasts, software and typographical arrangements.
  • Copyright exists automatically when something is written down, drawn, painted or recorded, provided that the work is not copied and is sufficiently original. There is no formal registration process.
  • How long copyright lasts depends on the type of work created, so you will need to take specialist advice. However, for most works, copyright lasts for the life of the creator, plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year of his or her death.
  • You can mark your work with a copyright notice to ensure that others know the works are protected by copyright, e.g. © Copyright [author/owner’s name] [year]. It is also common to add ‘All rights reserved’.
  • Copyright is a property right and it may be licensed or transferred by assignment. Where copyright is licensed, the licensor retains ownership of the copyright, but grants a licence to the licensee to use the works in accordance with the terms of the licence. There are different types of licence (e.g. sole, exclusive and non-exclusive) and different requirements depending on the nature of the licence, so it is recommended that you take specialist advice if you are thinking about granting or taking a licence of copyright.
  • An assignment of copyright transfers ownership of copyright from the assignor to the assignee. An assignment must be in writing and signed by or on behalf of the assignor.
  • Where literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and film works are created by an employee in the course of his/her employment, the employer will be the first owner of the copyright in the works (subject to any agreement to the contrary in the individual’s employment contract). There are different rules for sound recordings and broadcasts.
  • Where works are created by a third party, e.g. a contractor or consultant, copyright in such works will be owned by the third party who created the works (even where they have been commissioned and paid to create the works). It is therefore very important to agree who will own copyright before any works are created and to obtain a suitable licence or assignment of copyright (where required). This can be particularly important if you are then required to assign or licence the work on to your own customer or client.
  • Think about having a copyright policy, which sets out your business’s approach to the maintenance, protection and exploitation of copyright. It is also important for those within your business to be aware of and respect third party rights to avoid a claim being brought against your business for infringement of a third party’s copyright. This can be incorporated into your copyright policy informing staff of the potential dangers and the ways they can be avoided.

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