16 June 2023

IP Policies

By Sean Waterman, Head of IP

The use of intellectual property (IP) rights such as patents, trademarks, registered designs and copyright by UK companies makes a significant contribution to the UK’s GPD and employment. Between 2014-2016 IP rights intensive industries in the UK accounted for over 8.4 million jobs (28.1% of all UK jobs) and contributed over 1 trillion euros to the UK’s GDP.[1]

You don’t need to be a major player in the knowledge based economy for the management of IP to be an important consideration. Any organisation that creates, commissions others to create, publishes, uses, or licenses works protected by intellectual property rights should have robust IP policies and procedures in place.

IP policies provide a set of rules, principles and guidance for an organisation its employees, volunteers and contractors to follow regards how its and other’s intellectual property is managed. It should define roles and responsibilities and provide answers to questions about what employees should do and why. Written procedures related to IP management support the IP policy by providing instructions on how the policy is followed. With an IP policy and procedures in place, an organisation can ensure compliance with current legislation and that its management of IP is consistent and in line with its culture, values and strategic goals.

In 2012 Uckfield Community Technical College was ordered to pay a fine of £23,000 for making copyright materials available on its website in breach of an existing licence. This case highlights the risks posed to organisations that publish third party content online. Embedding respect for third party IP in a policy reduces the legal, financial and reputational risks posed by copyright infringement. An IP Policy can mandate obtaining written licences from rights holders to use works protected by copyright and to maintain records relating to the use. It can also require that rights holders are credited when their works are published. 

Organisations that publish online should ensure its IP policy includes a mandatory maintenance of a notice and take down policy published on its website. This can be backed up with procedures for dealing with complaints of copyright infringement.

An IP policy can also establish guidance on the organisation’s appetite for risk regards the use of orphan works (works in copyright where rights holders are unknown or cannot be traced), which is a common issue for museums and archives, or its use of the copyright exceptions. In addition, employees can be provided with tools for evaluating the risks so they can be empowered to make informed decisions.

An IP policy should also reflect an organisation’s position on the use of its IP by others. This should be in line with its values and strategic goals and for publicly funded bodies subject to regulations such as PSI (Public Sector Information), the policy should ensure compliance.

Licensing IP to generate income can be a key component of an organisation’s business model,  in which case its IP policy should recognise IP as a valued asset and establish means by which it can be protected. This could include the mandatory use of licences with agreed terms and conditions. It should also have procedures for dealing with infringement of its IP.

Some organisations, however, commit to encouraging the free use of its IP to further its goals, often by using Creative Commons licences. For example, Birmingham Museum’s Trust makes images of out-of-copyright works from its collections available to the public online under a CC0 licence. 

Many cultural organisations have a blended approach permitting non-commercial use but charging fees for commercial use of its IP.  Defining ‘commercial’ and ‘non-commercial’ use in the IP policy assists staff in deciding the terms on which assets can be made available, including how fees are structured.

In the UK work produced by employees is automatically the copyright of the employer, however this is not the case with contractors. Therefore, an IP policy should include guidance on commissioning works from contractors, ensuring contracts are always used and the IP rights are assigned by the contractor, or a licence is granted that enables the use the work for the purposes required. Ensuring contractors are responsible for clearing the use of any third party content is also an important consideration.

Naomi Korn Associates specialise in supporting organisations to adhere to their legal obligations regarding copyright and other types of Intellectual Property Rights. We check, create policies and procedures and help you build knowledge and confidence to successfully exploit your assets. Our team help form coherent strategies at governance level leading to operational consistency.

  • Review and amendments of policy frameworks
  • New policy and procedure drafting and integration plans
  • Risk management policies and frameworks
  • Infringement policies and procedures
  • Notice and take down policies and procedures

Naomi Korn Associates offer a range of copyright and other IP services to help organisations remain legally compliant when using third party material as well as how best to protect and optimise your assets as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and other related legislation. We also provide downloadable resources, operational tools and templates, jargon-free advice, practical training and mentoring to ensure organisations comply with their intellectual property needs. For more information contact info@naomikorn.com.

Naomi Korn Associates celebrates 20 years in 2023. For business updates, sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter @NKorn and LinkedIn: Naomi Korn Associates.

Our next Copyright Essentials training course takes place on 11 and 18 September 2023 – click here to book your place.

[1] https://pressreleases.responsesource.com/news/98454/intellectual-property-rights-strongly-benefit-the-uk-economy-epo-euipo-study/

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