When it comes to intellectual property (IP) ownership, a business has several options. Choosing the best option will depend on the nature of the IP, your commercial objectives and the associated legal obligations. However - generally speaking - the IP ownership options open to you will include:
INDIVIDUAL OWNERSHIP/SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP
An individual creates the IP personally so will own the IP personally.
This could take the form of co-ownership (i.e. two or more individuals or entities jointly create and own the IP under a co-ownership agreement), Tenants in Common (the co-owners own unequal shares of the IP and each can independently transfer their share to other parties) or Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (the co-owners have equal shares of the IP and if one passes away, their share will automatically transfer to the other co-owners).
As the name suggests, any IP created by a corporation or business would be owned by that legal entity. This is despite the fact the IP will have been created by employees as the innovation would have arisen dusting the course of the work they are employed to do.
Employer ownership and Government ownership are two additional IP ownership options.
Employer ownership ensures any IP created while an employee is under contract becomes the property of the employer. Similarly, under government ownership the IP created by government employees as part of their official duties will be owned by the government or, alternatively, become public domain.
While it is an extension of the IP ownership structure, businesses must also remain aware of the opportunities offered by Licensing and Assignment. Licensing enables IP owners to grant licenses to others so they can use the IP under specified terms and conditions and for a fee. Assignment allows IP owners to assign their ownership rights to another party. Assignment is most common during the sale of IP assets.
However, more and more people are now looking at establishing hybrid IP ownership.
These are more fluid arrangements, customised to suit the needs of all parties by combining licensing, joint ownership, and other agreements. These of course require greater and more specialist legal support to limit the associated levels of risk that can sometimes arise given the construction of the agreement will be bespoke to this particular situation.
Jesper Sellin will explain more about the different IP ownership options at Medicon Village on Wednesday 18 October.
Register for the event here.