In contrast to patents and trade marks, copyright is not a registered right. It exists automatically from the creation of a work and ends 70 years after the death of the creator or the date of first publication by a company. You do not have to register or file anything to obtain your copyright. However, we advise you to attach the © copyright notice, followed by the name of the copyright holder and the year of first publication, to all your work. This makes it clear to everyone that you are claiming copyright.
Copyright is generally owned by the creator, however there are some exceptions. It may be owned by the employer, for example, or the company who commissioned the work. Copyright can only be transferred by a written contract.
Intellectual property rights such as patents, designs and trade marks create a monopoly, which allows you to prevent others from using your invention, design or trade mark. This gives you a commercial advantage over your competitors. You can also enhance the value of your intellectual property by selling it. The payment received for the transfer can take many different forms and may have many different conditions attached.
You can also license (= lease) a patent, design or trade mark. A licence can be given to one or more parties, such as your distributors or franchisees. However, it can also be exclusive and include all the powers usually granted to the creator. In this case, licensing is very similar to transfer, with one important difference: with licensing, you retain ownership and hence control.
Cooperation can take a variety of forms, from outsourcing tests to a laboratory to developing an invention in partnership with others. Several parties can be involved, including commercial companies, test laboratories or universities. Each party has its own interests and makes its own contribution to the cooperative venture.
If you do not have a good contract there may be some debate about who owns the rights, or what can be done with the invention. So it is a good idea to establish a number of aspects of any cooperative venture in a written contract. One of these – perhaps the most important – is who owns the rights to the invention. The basic principles for the commercial phase can also be set out in the cooperation agreement. However, it is often more difficult to negotiate licences and royalties if the invention already exists and the rights have been distributed.
How do you make your intellectual property a strategic tool for your business? What is the most appropriate contract for your situation and what provisions should it contain? Since we can imagine you would rather not have to deal with these questions, you can rely on the Mark Your Brand legal team to handle the legal side of your intellectual property. We will help you to set out your agreements in a written contract drafted specifically for you.