Copyright – what to know and how to use it

First off I would like to say how pleased I am to have been asked to contribute to this blog on Start-ups. As a trained Biochemist, I think it is important for those conducting commercially-orientated research to have a basic understanding of Intellectual Property and how it can affect your work.  You probably already know a fair amount about patents. However, as a start-up you need to know about all forms of IP and how each of them can bring value to your business.

I now earn my trade as a Patent Attorney at the boutique Intellectual Property firm, IP Asset, based here in Oxford. We specialise in IP management, taking a personalised approach to the commercialisation of IP. Like many of our clients, we began life as a start-up, so we understand that you suddenly need to become an expert in so many aspects of running a business.

Our series of posts will look to provide founders/start-ups with some useful tips on IP. We will begin with the world of Copyright – it is easily overlooked but every business will generate lots of material that is subject to copyright and that all has value, especially when taken as a whole. Copyright doesn’t need to be registered, it is automatic, but you’d be wise to index it so you can show investors what you have. There is plenty of literature out there on the types of works (artistic/literary) that copyright can protect and for how long but here are a few points that you really need to know as a start-up:

  • Copyright only covers copying, not independent creation, so to enforce it you need to show that the other side copied your work.
  • Use © in association with any copyright article – to make sure people know your claim rights.
  • Obtain specific assignment of any copyright that may arise in contracts with suppliers – particularly websites, advertising documents, sales literature and software – as you may not own the copyright without a specific assignment.
  • Apply the date of creation of the copyright – just the year required – as copyright has a limited term.
  • Apply sufficient information on the copyright owner – normally O.K. to simply have the company name on the same document but good to say “© XYZ Limited, all rights reserved 2014”.

Boring but important; copyright law varies from country to country so don’t assume that what applies in the UK will necessarily follow through abroad.

If you require further information on any of the above points please contact Dom Icely at dom.icely@ipasset.com.