Joint ownership of intellectual property rights
Produced in partnership with Jessica Stretch
Joint ownership of intellectual property rights

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with Jessica Stretch provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Joint ownership of intellectual property rights
  • Implied joint ownership—basic principles
  • Implied joint ownership—risks and problems
  • Joint ownership agreements—key consideration
  • Alternatives to joint ownership of IP
  • Summary—joint ownership checklist

When parties collaborate on creative projects or research and development, complex questions arise about the ownership of any resulting intellectual property (IP).

Joint ownership of IP may seem like a straightforward and fair solution where parties have worked together and cannot distinguish the output of their respective efforts. However, where parties fail to give careful consideration as to how their jointly created IP will be owned, organised and exploited, there are legal pitfalls, practical difficulties and obstacles to full commercialisation of the IP. In the vast majority of cases it is preferable for parties to enter into an express agreement on joint ownership of IP rather than relying upon the default legal position.

This Practice Note provides an overview of the law on joint ownership of IP (also known as co-ownership, used interchangeably in this note):

  1. Implied joint ownership—basic principles

  2. Implied joint ownership—risks and obstacles

  3. Joint ownership agreements—key considerations

  4. Alternatives to joint ownership of IP

  5. Summary—joint ownership checklist

A working knowledge of IP law is assumed. For background to the IP rights covered in this note, see: IP essentials—overview.

Implied joint ownership—basic principles

Where parties have worked together to create IP, it is often the case that individual contributions cannot be readily identified and/or the work and resulting IP is not divisible. This is not to say that everyone involved in a project