Small firms risk copyright loss

Ignorance of intellectual property law widespread

Widespread ignorance of copyright laws is putting the intellectual property (IP) rights of the majority of small firms at risk, the Patent Office cautions.

Over 70% of British firms risk losing their IP rights when they sign deals with other businesses due to their confusion over who holds the copyright.

New research from the Patent Office found that 40% of businesses believe they own the copyright if they ask a sub-contractor to develop software for their business, and another 30% of firms admit they do not know who owns the copyright.

The sub-contractor holds the copyright, the Patent Office said, unless the firm that commissioned the work has specified clearly in a written contract before work is carried out that it claims ownership of the IP.

“All businesses need to be aware of how to handle intellectual property because they all own some and should value it,” said Lawrence Smith-Higgins, head of marketing at the Patent Office.

“When you sell a business or have it valued, it is often assets such as trademarks, copyrights, patents and design registrations which command a great deal of the value,” he added. “You cannot afford to let these assets slip through your fingers from a lack of knowledge.”

The Patent Office’s research coincides with the launch of a new campaign to promote the ways in which businesses can benefit from their IP. The What is the Key? campaign is in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents and the Institute of Trade.

All events and information are free. Further details can be found at the campaign’s small business web site, www.the-key.biz.

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