Intellectual property

Intellectual property can be a valuable asset. Every business will own intellectual property rights of one sort or another. Intellectual property rights should, therefore, be protected and enforced in order to ensure that they retain their value. Use of a third party’s intellectual property rights (whether knowingly or otherwise) without their permission can be disastrous: infringement is usually very expensive.

Copyright arises automatically in any:

• original artistic, literary, musical or dramatic works;
• sound recordings, films or broadcasts; and
• typographical arrangements in published works,
which have been recorded in some tangible form. Ideas and concepts are not protected by copyright. For a work to be original, it must not have been copied from another work and it must involve some skill or judgement (however small). Independent copyrights may therefore subsist in two identical works so long as their respective creators did not copy each other or a third party. In this sense, copyright protection does not confer a monopoly.

Broadly speaking, copyright will last for:

• 70 years from the death of the author in the case of literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works (but only 25 years in the case of industrially-exploited artistic works), and films; and
• 50 years in the case of sound recordings and broadcasts.
The penalties for infringement of intellectual property rights vary depending upon the right infringed, but typically include:
• court orders to stop infringement, including urgent interim injunctions before a full trial takes place;
• damages (such as loss of sales or a payment equivalent to a licence fee to use the intellectual property right) or an account of the profits made from the infringement (whichever is the greater); and
• delivery up or destruction of infringing goods.
For some intellectual property rights, criminal sanctions apply, including fines and custodial sentences.